If it has been said once, it has been said well over a thousand times in the postseason.
Survive and advance.
Woodrow Wilson took that concept a bit to the extreme Thursday night in its Class AAA Region 3, Section 2 elimination game against Mercer County rival Princeton, but made it work.
Surviving six physical errors and countless mental errors, the Flying Eagles held the Tigers at bay for a 7-4 win.
The win moves Woodrow Wilson into the sectional championship round where it will host Greenbrier East Friday night.
While Beckley was having its struggles in the field, Princeton did them one better committing seven errors on the night.
Of the 11 total runs scored in the game, only three were earned.
“I think it was poor baseball by both teams. When you are in sectional play, you get everybody’s best shot,” first year Woodrow Wilson head coach J.P. Stevens said. “I think Princeton probably played the best they could, but we had base running mistakes and stupid errors that really hurt us. I would say we left 10 or 11 runners on base in scoring position, not just total. When you do that, you are normally not going to win.”
The home team scored a run in each of the first two innings to lead 2-0 before Princeton evened the game in the top of the third.
After a single from Noah Dunford opened the inning, Ethan Hendrick reached on an error. Princeton then scored on a fielder’s choice grounder from Jonathan Higginbotham and a single from Jordan Bailey to tie the game at 2-2.
Three straight singles for the Flying Eagles to open the bottom of the frame loaded the bases giving Beckley a chance for a big inning.
The first runner was erased attempting to score when the ball got away from the catcher. Beckley was able to score on a second wild pitch, but two straight strikeouts turned the momentum back to the visitors.
“We have been in some crappy situations time and time again. I told them right there that was a swing in the game,” Princeton head coach Austin Southcott said. “We needed to take some momentum and put up a couple of runs.
Princeton responded with back-to-back one-out singles, but after a strikeout Beckley looked poised to get out of the fourth inning unscathed.
However, a high throw on a ground ball sailed over the baseman, allowing one run to score and gave Princeton life with runners at second and third.
An RBI-single from Hendrick staked Princeton to a 4-3 lead before Woodrow could record the final out.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, what they gained in the top of the inning, they gave back in the bottom when they committed three crucial errors leading to two Beckley runs.
“That is kind of how high school baseball goes some nights. Just the bounce of the ball sometimes doesn’t go your way,” Southcott said. “One thing I have said about these guys all year is they battle, battle and battle. You just expect it to happen in games like this. Unfortunately, that was not the way it went tonight.”
Connor Mollohan gave Beckley some breathing room in the fifth inning when he hit a solid two-out single that scored two more runs for the 7-4 advantage.
Mollohan then made a solid play on a deep fly ball to center which would have easily scored a pair of runs had the ball dropped.
“The one he caught in the sixth was really good. As soon as that one happens you pretty much know that you have the game. If he doesn’t catch that, who knows what happens,” Stevens said.
Lost in the bizarre plays and numerous errors on the night was the pitching performance by Beckley starter, Ari Payne.
Payne pitched five innings, scattering seven hits and although he was charged with four runs, none of them were earned.
“Ari hadn’t pitched much all year and he came out and did exactly what we needed him to do tonight,” Stevens said. “Later in the game when he got to about the 80 pitch mark, he lost some velocity where he hadn’t thrown much. Overall, he did great tonight.”
Danny Dickenson and Blake Stratton each had two hits and drove in one run each. Dickenson also came on to hold Princeton scoreless over the last two frames.
Friday night Beckley faces its third straight elimination game when it hosts Greenbrier East.
A win for the Spartans will secure the sectional title, while Beckley needs two straight wins over its old nemesis for the crown.
Stevens fully expects to see Greenbrier East ace pitcher Jake Roshau Friday.
“Our goal was to make the sectional championship game the first year. Of course, the goals have changed as the season went on. We fully expect to win it now,” Stevens said. “Roshau is a great pitcher. We have to put the ball in play and make plays. As long as we put the ball in play and throw strikes we will be fine.”