(Photo by Kyle Carter, Staff)
ORAN - O.K., so Bell City senior Ben Duncan isn't perfect, but in the baseball sense he was pretty close Tuesday afternoon as the Cubs took on No. 8 state-ranked Chaffee in the second round of the Class 1, District 2 Tournament.
Duncan threw seven innings, collected 10 strikeouts and only allowed three hits in the Cubs' 3-2 win over the Eagles.
"I thought Duncan did a very good job today," said Bell City head coach Matt Asher. "He hit his spots well and he did a good job of battling out there."
After the contest, Duncan said, "I was just trying to control things out there. I was hitting my spots very well. I just threw one bad pitch, and even it was on its spot."
That one pitch ended up over the wall in right-center field to tie the game at 2-2, but Bell City (14-4) began the fireworks in the top of the sixth.
Beginning his sixth inning, Chaffee's Sam Burnett walked Jack Daniels.
Duncan came up and hit a shot to the shortstop, James Reischman, who picked it up and fired to first.
Duncan may have beat the play anyway, but Reischman's throw went awry allowing Daniels to move to third. After the miscue Burnett would be relieved of his duties and Zac Horman, the Red Devils' ace, took the hill.
Horman intentionally walked Ty Brown, forcing Bell City's No. 5 hitter to come to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs.
Zak McIntyre put a 1-1 bullet throw the drawn-in left side of the infield to score Daniels and Duncan to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead.
The Cubs would not be able to profit anymore from the inning though as Horman set down the six, seven, and eight hitters in order.
Horman found the triangle of doom in shallow right field to lead off the bottom of the frame.
After a pop out, Sam Burnett stepped to the plate and blasted an inside fastball out over the right-center field wall. The blast tied the game at 2-2, dropping the momentum back toward Chaffee (12-11).
"I had tried to keep the ball away from him all night," said Duncan. "The catcher set up inside and I hit the spot, he just got around on it and hit it out."
With the game tied, Horman went back to the mound for CHS and got the first two batters. He then walked Daniels.
This walk to Daniels would prove to be fatal as Duncan once again stepped in to the box.
BC's hurler banged a lined shot off the left field wall for a double, allowing Daniels to come home and giving the Cubs a 3-2 lead.
"We had a chance in the top of the seventh," said Asher. "We got a runner on and had Duncan in the box, as a high school coach that's all you can ask for. You just want to give your boys a chance."
Duncan's blast would prove to be the winning hit as he mowed down the final three batters in order.
Duncan ended the game 2-4 at the plate and he only allowed Chaffee a .125 batting average throughout the game.
Duncan's two strongest innings were the second and the fifth. He handed out three big Ks in a row in the second and collected two in the fifth. He didn't allow a hit until Horman's blooper in the sixth.
Lost in the muck of the final two innings is the pitching performance of Chaffee's Burnett. Burnett tossed five strong frames, allowing only one hit after the first frame.
Bell City did threaten early, as they got three straight singles, but Burnett kept his composure and put down the threat by striking out Bell City's number four and six hitters.
Burnett also only allowed one walk (Daniels in the sixth) and he got the no-decision.
"Sam did an outstanding job for us today," said Chaffee's head coach Brian Horrell. "He was pitching very well, but he was getting up in pitch count there in the sixth. If we don't have the error, we probably would have left him in a little longer, but as it was we decided to bring in Horman to try to stop the rally."
Bell City will take on the Oran Eagles in the championship bout Thursday night.
Oran's Eagles 12-spotted Bernie's Mules Tuesday as shortstop Ryne Wood hit a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the fifth to give Oran the win by mercy rule.
Tyler Nelson tossed a three hitter for the Eagles as he collected 11 strikeouts while only facing 21 batters.
Nelson's shutout almost ended as quick as it began as the first batter of the game singled to left, then reached third on two errors by the left fielder.
After two strikeouts, Nelson would then walk the bases loaded, but would get Moore to whiff to end the inning.
Nelson struck out the side in the second, but would again walk Eubank in the third to load the bases. This time Moore flew out to center to end the threat.
Oran scored all they needed in the first as Wood and Trey Graviett would both come around to score on a single by Joey Bickings.
Bickings and Tyler Cookson would both score as well in the first inning on a double by Nelson to give the Eagles a 4-0 lead after one.
In the fifth frame Bickings hit a tater with Cookson on to take the lead to 8-0. Nelson scored on a Friga single in the fifth to make it 9-0. Wood followed up later with his walk-off home run.
The probables for Thursday's championship are as follows: Trey Graviett for Oran and Darrell Bailey for Bell City.