Barboursville Little League loses, faces elimination
By RICK NOLTE
For The Herald-Dispatch
WARNER ROBINS, Ga. - West Virginia’s Little League champions quickly learned Friday afternoon that baseball at the regional level is a different class of competition.
The Virginia champions batted around in two separate innings and four pitchers limited the team from Barboursville to three hits on the way to a 12-5 victory in the opening round of the Southeast Regional. The loss dropped West Virginia into Saturday’s 10 a.m. elimination game against Tennessee, a 1-0 loser against Georgia in the eight-team event’s opening game.
The club from Loudoun, Virginia, sent 10 men to the plate in the second inning to collect half its runs and half of its 10 hits. Barboursville fought back with three runs in the third inning, and trailed only 7-5 after scoring two more in the fifth inning.
Virginia, however, batted around in its half of the fifth inning to score five more times and seal the issue.
“We knew coming in we’d have to play almost perfect baseball to compete here,” West Virginia manager Daniel Nida said. “We made no errors so the defense was there, but we have to put bat on the ball a little bit more.
“They put the bat on the ball and found holes a lot of times. When we put it play, except for a few times, it was right at them.”
Shawn Arneja was the starter and winning pitcher for Virginia. The left-hander, who helped his cause with two hits and three runs batted in, left with two outs in the fourth inning after allowing three runs - two earned - on three hits with no walks and six strikeouts.
Jack Eastone, the first of four West Virginia pitchers, took the loss. The right-hander departed after the decisive second inning when Virginia used five hits and a pair of walks to score all the runs it would need.
Eastone and his relievers trailed in the count against most of the Virginia hitters. West Virginia walked five and hit one batter, and all but one scored.
“That’s not typical of our guys,” Nida said. “We usually pitch ahead, but this is a big stage and they’re still kids.”
After fanning four of West Virginia’s first seven hitters in the first two frames Arneja and Virginia broke through in its half of the second inning. The first four batters reached and two scored on a single by Ryan Pugh.
A single by Griffin Burkholder brought home another run before Arneja doubled in two more. Connor McGoldrick, the inning’s ninth hitter, followed with a ground out to first base to score the sixth run before Troy Koerner, who opened the inning with a single, flew out to right to end it.
West Virginia got half of the runs back in the third inning when Griffin Dempsey, Bryce Alfrey and Daniel Nida reached on a single, error and another single respectively. After a Carson Carter fly out to shallow center field, Cooper Cummings cleared the bases with a triple to the gap in right-center.
Virginia got one of the runs back in the fourth before West Virginia closed the gap to 7-5 on a two-run fifth without the benefit of a hit. Nida and Carter opened with walks before Cummings popped out to the pitcher and Eastone walked to load the bases.
Nida scored on a wild pitch and Ethan Blackburn brought home Carter with a grounder to second base. Virginia, however, left Eastone at third base when Jordan Hicks grounded out to third.
“It’s 7-5 there and if we can hold them, we were close to getting the lineup turned over to the middle (in the sixth),” Nida said. “But. ...”
Virginia pulled away in the bottom half of the fifth inning, using four hits, a walk, and a hit batter to fuel the rally. Troy Yates had his second double of the game to plate two of the runs while Arneja singled home the capper.
West Virginia will try to stay alive in the double-elimination affair against Tennessee from South Nashville Little League, which gave up a run in the bottom of the sixth to lose. Nida will have all his pitchers available except Eastone, who exceeded the pitch limit to be eligible for consecutive days.
“We’ve got one more day at least,” he said. “We’ll figure out what we can do tomorrow (pitching) and do our best.”
WEST VIRGINIA 003 020 -- 5 3 0
VIRGINIA 060 15x -- 12 10 2
W: Shawn Arneja; L: Jack Eastone. Strikeouts: Arneja 6.
Top hitters: (WV) Cummings 1-3, 2B, 3 RBIs, Ethan Blackburn RBI; (V) Yates 2-3, 2-2B, 3 RBIs, Arneja 2-4, 2B, 3 RBIs, Ryan Pugh, 2-2, 2 RBI, Troy Koerner 2-3, Hunter Taylor RBI.