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Panthers slip past Hornets 2-1 in 9 innings to win OVC outright

Coal Grove Hornets’ baserunner Sean Paulus dives back into first base as Chesapeake Panthers’ first baseman Dakota Blankenship looks to make the tag. Chesapeake edged Coal Grove 2-1 in nine innings on Tuesday to win the Ohio Valley Conference baseball title outright. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Coal Grove Hornets’ baserunner Sean Paulus dives back into first base as Chesapeake Panthers’ first baseman Dakota Blankenship looks to make the tag. Chesapeake edged Coal Grove 2-1 in nine innings on Tuesday to win the Ohio Valley Conference baseball title outright. (Kent Sanborn of Southern Ohio Sports Photos)

Jim Walker

jim.walker@irontontribune.com

 

COAL GROVE — Unlike the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, this battle lived up to its hype.

In a showdown for the league title, the Chesapeake Panthers used strong pitching and manufactured a couple of runs to edge the Coal Grove Hornets 2-1 on Tuesday and claim the Ohio Valley Conference baseball championship outright.

Chesapeake is now 13-5 overall and finishes 11-1 in the league. Coal Grove is 13-6 and ends 9-3 in the OVC.

“It was one of the best baseball games I’ve been involved in the last two years. That’s the kind of game to play for the league championship,” said Panthers’ coach Justin Davis.

“We wanted to win it outright. If you lose, you share with the team that beat you twice.”

Blake Lester took care of the pitching as he out-dueled Coal Grove’s Jacob Pierce.

Lester scattered 10 hits, struck out 11 and walked four. Pierce allowed six hits, fanned eight and walked four.

Davis praise Lester and the Panthers’ other senior pitcher Jacob Henson for their work towards the league title.

“When you have two horses you line can line up for league games all year, that helps you. The league was very competitive. Both (pitchers) have earned run averages under one. Usually, we just need a couple of runs,” said Davis.

“Lester was our horse tonight and he carried us. We were able to claw our way for a couple of runs later. Coal Grove is a good baseball team. They hit the ball really well.”

Coal Grove got its run in the first inning when Jacob Clark singled, went to second on a ground out and scored on Jesse Rigsby’s base hit.

The Panthers tied the game in the sixth.

Casey McComas singled, Nate Smith walked and a passed ball sent McComas to third. Lester then put down a suicide squeeze bunt to score McComas.

Chesapeake got an unearned run in the ninth to get the win.

Dakota Blankenship was hit by a pitch, went to second on a ground out, and Blake Ashworth reached on a throwing error as Blankenship scored.

Coal Grove threatened in the bottom of the inning with two outs on a triple by Chase McKnight, but Lester struck out the next batted to end the game.

Coal Grove left nine runners on base including four

“We played really well, we just couldn’t get the hit when we needed it and they made the plays when they needed it,” said Hornets’ coach Dean Mader.

McComas was 2-3 for the Panthers. Clark was 2-4 with two doubles, Rigsby 2-3 with an RBI and McKnight 2-4 with a triple for the Hornets.

Both teams will play Division III sectional tournament games on Wednesday as Chesapeake hosts Federal Hocking and Coal Grove entertains South Point.

Chesapeake 000 001 001 = 2 6 1

Coal Grove 100 000 000 = 1 10 1

Blake Lester and Blake Ashworth. Jacob Pierce and Jesse Rigsby. W-Lester (K-11, BB-4, IBB-2). L-Pierce (K-8, BB-4,). Hitting-Chesy: Casey McComas 2-3, Blake Lester 1-3, Dakota Blankenship 1-3, Jacob Henson 1-2, Blake Ashworth 1-4; CG: Jacob Clark 2-4 2-2B, Daniel Rutherford 1-3 3B, Jesse Rigsby 2-3 rbi, Jacob Pierce 1-4, Sean Paulus 1-3, , Dylan Malone 1-3, Chase McKnight 2-4 3B.