By MATT KOESTERS
In a dramatic back-and-forth affair, a Providence comeback attempt fell just short in a 6-5 loss to Eastern in the finals of the Class 2A Providence Sectional on Saturday.
“They earned and deserved to win, because they stayed close with us through the first few innings,” Providence coach Scott Hornung said. “They hung around enough to feel that it was a tight ballgame, which it was.”
The Musketeers did all of their damage in the top of the fifth inning. With Providence ahead 3-0, the bottom of Eastern’s order got things going with back-to-back hits by Jacob Hornung and Drew Logue. After Jason Allen successfully bunted an 0-2 pitch by Brenden Popson to move the runners up, Hornung scored and Logue went to third on a Popson wild pitch to make it 3-1.
The Eastern inning continued with an RBI single by Dustin Miller, who moved up when Kaleb Nicholson reached on a Providence fielding error.
The big hit of the inning came with the bases juiced and two outs. With Cristian Ensley on the mound, Josh Gillespie worked the count full before hitting a flare up the middle to plate two runs. Andrew Hunt’s throw from center field missed the cut-off man to allow another runner across, and Gillespie came home when Nick Campbell’s attempt to catch the big Musketeer at third went into left field, making it a 6-3 advantage for the visitors.
“We threw the ball around at the end of that play, but the result happened because they were able to get big hits in the situation that they were in,” Coach Hornung said. “They deserved that.”
The Pioneers slowly chipped away at the lead. After going down in order in the home fifth, Providence got a run in the sixth when George Knott doubled and Campbell drove him in on a base hit, and another in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Justin Starr with the bases loaded and one away. But Miller recovered from the threat to strike out Knott looking on three pitches to end the threat and the game.
“You ask to get people on base and give yourself an opportunity, and we did,” Coach Hornung said. “It’s just a wonderful team that we had — great teammates to each other throughout the whole year, with our ups and downs, just very supportive of each other. It’s been a great season.”
Miller got his second win of the day on the mound for Eastern. He went the distance for the Musketeers, and the only free base he issued was when he hit Hunt with a pitch on a full count in the final inning. He struck out four. Miller also pitched the final two innings of the Musketeers’ 11-10 win over Paoli in the semifinals earlier in the day.
“Dustin Miller just lives around the plate,” Eastern coach Mike McBride said. “...That’s why we went with him the second game. We thought he was going to be able to throw strikes and keep the ball in the play where we can play defense.”
“Obviously, early in the game, we had a little difficult time with a timing,” Coach Hornung said. “We couldn’t get into our best hitting groove today, just because he was down in the strike zone. (He) threw a lot of off-speed stuff and kept us off-balance, and he did a great job.”
Jon Davis hit triples in both the third and fourth innings, going 2-for-3 on the day for Providence. He drove in a run and scored another.
Ensley was charged with the loss pitching in relief of Popson. He went 1 2/3 innings, allowing one hit and walking two. He struck out one.
Davis struck out three working in relief in the top of the seventh.
The Pioneers (14-13) say goodbye to Popson, who will graduate.
“This team was wonderful together and represented our school very well,” Coach Hornung said. “I’m proud of them.”
• Providence wins laugher against Clarksville: After spotting Clarksville a 5-0 lead with the home team coming to bat, Providence responded with 18 first-inning runs and coasted to an easy 24-8 victory in the semifinals of the Providence Sectional.
The Pioneers sent 24 batters to the plate in the first inning, capitalizing on seven Clarksville fielding miscues. Overall, the Generals committed nine errors in the game.
Drew Kissel took the loss for the Generals, allowing eight runs on five hits. Six of those runs were earned. Wes Rittman allowed 10 more runs in 2/3 of an inning of relief. Will Copas finished the rest of the game.
Davis got the win, allowing eight earned runs in 2 2/3 innings of work.
Hunt, Ensley, Star and Davis each had three hits in the contest. Providence needed just 16 hits to score its runs.
CLASS 2A PROVIDENCE SECTIONAL
EASTERN 000 060 0—6 8 1
PROVIDENCE 002 101 1—5 9 3
W — Miller. L — Ensley. 2B — Ensley (P), Knott (P), Popson (P). 3B — Davis 2 (P).
Records — Eastern 14-12, Providence 14-13.
CLARKSVILLE 5 03 00— 8 6 9
PROVIDENCE (18)12 3x—24 16 2
W — Davis. L — Kissel. 2B — Noe (C). 3B — Kissel (C), Mikel (C), Nat. Jones (C), Starr (P).
Records — Providence 14-12, Clarksville 11-17.