(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
CHARLESTON -- Charleston senior James Naile was a bit stingy while pitching against rival East Prairie, but in a good way.
Responsible for over 80 percent of the Bluejays' defensive outs, Naile struck out 17 in a complete game win over the East Prairie Eagles during the annual 'Red and Blue' game at Hillhouse Park on Thursday.
"I had a lot of my pitches working but it was just a good effort from everybody," said the always-humble Naile. "It just goes to show, throwing strikes is the name of the game. Just keeping it around the plate is a big help to a lot of success."
Naile, who has signed with Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., was able to use his explosive fastball as well as all of his dynamic breaking pitches to deter the Eagles' offensive plans and to get out of the few jams he wound up in.
"He did a tremendous job all night," Charleston head coach Michael Minner said. "He kept us in the ball game."
One jam in particular Naile worked his way out of was an early scoring threat by the Eagles.
Alan Miller led off the third inning with a deep triple to centerfield that just missed the outstretched glove of Trey Watkins. With a runner just 90 feet away, Naile struck out the next three batters stranding Alan Miller at third.
"There were a few pitches that I left up in the zone and every one of them they smacked," Naile said. "The next three batters (after Alan Miller) I really tried to bear down. I knew that one run could be a big run and luckily I got out of it."
Four times Naile struck out the side.
"He gets us out of jams where we don't have to make plays," Minner said. "(East Prairie) has a good ball club and they took good cuts all night. (Naile) just threw it by them and he mixed up some good pitches."
The senior hurler gave up six hits and was charged with three earned runs. Two of East Prairie's runs were scored on passed balls adding to the never-ending drama that is the Charleston-East Prairie rivalry.
"Every single year it's been really tight," Naile said about their battles with the Eagles. "Everybody out here is doing all they can to win. It's so important to the two schools and this rivalry game brings out the best. It just makes it a lot of fun."
Although Naile stole the show, East Prairie starter Connor Scott proved just as formidable.
Scott was charged with just one earned run on seven hits and three walks. He fanned eight in a complete game as well.
"Connor pitched well enough that if we make a couple plays behind him, we win the game," East Prairie head coach Gary Scott said.
While Naile had it going early, striking out eight of the first 11 batters he saw, the Bluejays awarded their pitcher by scoring first in the bottom of the third inning.
Following a single by Marshall Stallings and a walk to Naile, an error on the Eagles' infield allowed Stallings to score from second. An RBI single from Michael Baugh later in the inning scored Naile from second as well.
"Our offense took advantage of a few miscues," Minner said. "But, give Connor (Scott) credit. He threw the ball about as well as he could. That was probably a game that could have been a 1-0 or 2-1 game and it came down to we played just a little bit better than them."
The Eagles bounced back with their first run in the top of the fourth. Aaron Miller led off the inning with a single down the left field line and eventually worked his way around to third to score on a passed ball.
"Going into this game we knew we were going to have our work cut out for us," Naile said. "East Prairie is a good team and Connor is a great pitcher. We just really tried to make the defense work the best we could and we wanted our defense to work. I felt like they did a great job behind me."
Charleston extended their lead in their half of the fourth. Kamari Allmon was awarded home when a ball ricocheted out of the field of play during Corey Adams' single. Stallings scored his second run of the game when Ethan Browning singled him in to give the Bluejays a 4-1 lead.
After a scoreless fifth, the Eagles battled back once again. A groundout by Scott pushed Shawn King across which was followed by another run by Aaron Miller on a passed ball.
Despite Naile sitting down batter after batter, East Prairie (1-4) still found a way to be in the game late.
With one out already recorded, Alan Miller hit a single up the middle. He stole second base shortly after putting himself in scoring position where a well placed hit could tie the game.
Like he had done 15 previous times, Naile struck out the last two batters to end the game.
"We hit the ball at times," Scott said. "It's just that big hit that we needed. Even with 17 strikeouts, we still had chances to win the game. We just came up a run short."
Both Aaron and Alan Miller each had two hits for East Prairie. Charleston was led by Stallings and Baugh who had two hits apiece.
Following the game, the famed Red and Blue trophy was given to the Bluejays signifying the latest winner between the rivals.
"It's a great feeling to have that trophy back in Charleston," said Naile. "Hopefully, we can just build off of this and keep it going."
East Prairie 000 102 0 -- 3
Charleston 002 200 x -- 4
WP -- James Naile. LP -- Connor Scott. 2B -- (E) Aaron Miller. 3B -- (E) Alan Miller.