Blacksburg returned home on Friday for a big game with their old River Ridge foe, the Salem Spartans. With the recent VHSL re-classifications, this game was a big one for the Bruins because by winning, they would get more points than most games because they are playing "up" one level above their classification. The total points a team achieves during the regular season determines the seeding for the conference tournament at the end of the season. The two team with the most points (in the conference) both get byes in the first round of the Conference 32 Tournament.
Sophomore Jake Verniel took the mound for the Spartans in his first varsity start. One would have thought he was a seasoned veteran by the way he effectively controlled the Spartans. In the 1st inning, he faced just four batters. After giving up a lead off single to center field, he recorded three straight ground outs.
Blacksburg was ineffective in the 1st as well, sending six players to the plate. Ethan Goforth singled for Blacksburg and then Adam Linkous was hit by a pitch, but both players were stranded.
Verniel kept Salem off balance through four complete innings, keeping the Spartans scoreless. He gave up two singles in the 2nd, one single in the 3rd, and two singles in the 4th as the Bruin defense played well behind him in a good group effort. Salem threatened in the 4th when they loaded the bases with two singles and a player reaching on an error. However, Verniel forced a fly out, and then a force out at home and out on an alert tag at 3B by Jake Schirmer on the player advancing from 2B.
Meanwhile, the Bruins went to work in the bottom of the 2nd, scoring two runs to pull ahead 2-0. Tyler Barry led off the inning by drawing a walk. Then, Tyler Davis hit a single to right field. An error by the right fielder allowed Barry and Davis to both take extra bases. Barry scored on the error and Davis ended up at 2B. After two consecutive outs, one of which advanced Davis to 3B, Morgan McCoy reached on an error, scoring Davis. A player was caught stealing to end the inning, but Blacksburg had taken an important 2-0 lead.
Blacksburg added another run in the bottom of the 3rd, extending their lead 3-0. Jon Hinson singled to center field and then Goforth reached on an error, permitting Hinson to advance all the way to 3B. Adam Linkous singled to center field, scoring Hinson. A line out and strike out ended the inning for the Bruins.
The Bruins were held scoreless in the bottom of the 4th as Salem finally found some defense, with the first three Bruin runs being unearned.
Salem managed to score a run in the top of the 5th. A lead off single and then a double put runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs. A sac fly scored a run for Salem, making the score now 3-1. But, Verniel buckled down and got the last two outs via a fly out and ground out to end the inning and hold Salem to just one run.
Blacksburg's penchant for scoring unearned runs continued, as they took advantage of Salem miscues and picked up three more runs off just two hits. Ethan Goforth led off the inning and was hit by a pitch. Adam Linkous then hit a single to left field, advancing Goforth to 2B. A wild pitch permitted Goforth to advance to 3B. Jake Schirmer was then hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Blacksburg. After a fly out, Tyler Davis delivered a big RBI single, scoring Goforth. Another wild pitch scored Linkous, while Schirmer and Davis each advanced one base, to 3B and 2B respectively. Verniel then sacrificed, recording an RBI in scoring Schirmer. A ground out ended the inning, but Blacksburg had opened up the game 6-1 late in the contest, which proved to be a huge change in momentum.
John Hinson came into to pitch for Blacksburg in the top of the 6th. With two outs, Sowers hit a home run for Salem, but Hinson struck out the next batters to minimize the damage and the score was now 6-2.
Blacksburg's bats came alive in the bottom of the 6th, scoring 3 runs off 4 hits. McCoy led off with a single to left field. After an out, Goforth singled to center field, advancing McCoy to 2B. After another out, the Bruins had some clutch hits to break the game wide open. Schirmer doubled to center field, recording two RBIs in scoring both McCoy and Goforth. Schirmer took 3B on the throw home and then scored on an error by the 3rd baseman. Tyler Barry was HBP and then Tyler Davis singled to left field. A ground out ended the inning. However, the Bruins had taken a commanding 9-2 lead.
Hinson closed the door on the Spartans in the top of the 7th, retiring Salem in order with a ground out and two strike outs. Blacksburg did not bat in the bottom of the 7th.
Jake Verniel got the win on the mound in his first varsity start, pitching 5 complete innings, scattering 8 hits, and giving up only 1 earned run. Amazingly, he did not walk anyone.
John Hinson pitched 2 innings in relief, giving up just 1 hit and striking out 4 batters. He did not walk anyone either.
Offensively, Blacksburg was led by Tyler Davis who was 3/4 with 1 RBI. Adam Linkous and Ethan Goforth each had 2 hits. Jake Schirmer had 2 RBIs. Blacksburg had 11 hits, scored 9 runs, 3 of which were earned. Blacksburg only had 1 error Salem had 9 hits and scored 2 runs, 1 of which was earned. The Spartans committed 5 errors.
Head Coach Danny Shouse was very pleased with his team's performance and said "this is the Blacksburg from last year. We cut our errors way down and our infield continues to play very well. That one ball that Morgan got to deep in the hole was amazing and no other player could have gotten to it. On offense, we attacked the baseball and hit it well today. We have to hit, hit, hit. I was very proud of Jake Verniel on the mound today; he did an awesome job and we played good defense behind him. Him not walking anyone was huge. Not allowing free passes is a big deal in high school baseball. Jon Hinson closed and did a great job also. We did not allow a walk today. We're gonna start Morgan on the bump against Hidden Valley and give them our all. We'll find out what we're made of then. We just have to keep playing Blacksburg baseball."
With the win, Blacksburg improves to 5-2 and faces Hidden Valley in a River Ridge match up on Tuesday.