Never mind that Ashland has scored the third-fewest runs of any 16th Region baseball team playing a full schedule.
Prolific? Maybe not. Clutch? Yes, at least over the past week or so.
The Tomcats plucked their third walk-off win in eight days — all by identical 2-1 scores — Thursday when Cam Fritz laced a single to deep right-center to drive in Evan Cox and beat Greenup County in eight innings.
Senior shortstop Jared Slone, who drove in the game-tying run in the bottom of the seventh to force extras, said Ashland’s chemistry helps drive it to succeed in such moments, even — and especially — when offense is hard to come by.
“I think we as a team have more confidence for each other than we do for ourselves at times,” Slone said. “Every at-bat, you hear people in the dugout yelling, ‘Confidence, confidence.’ I think the team really helps you at the plate right there.”
Added coach Jeff Wilcox: “Our attitude at the first of the year was lousy, I thought. It’s getting a lot better, win or lose, it’s getting better, and that’s what I like about this team. They’re starting to grow up a little bit, and just playing great team ball.”
Fritz and Aaron Elam were each 2-for-3 for the Tomcats (10-7). Cox was 2-for-4.
Fritz earned the victory in relief of starter Robert Griffith, who thew 5 1/3 scoreless frames.
“It’s fun,” Fritz said of taking the hill in a tight game late. “(Wilcox) has been doing it to me a lot this year. It’s actually like the third time this week.
“I have a great group of guys behind me and they played solid behind me, so nothing more I could ask.”
Gage Hughes was 3-for-3 for the Musketeers (9-13). Tristan Downing was 2-for-3 and Jared Hunt went 2-for-4.
Downing, the starting pitcher, allowed one run in seven innings, taking a no-decision.
Hughes and Hunt occupy the top two spots in the Greenup County order, and coach Greg Logan noted they did their job in getting on base. But the Musketeers’ 3-4-5 hitters went a combined 2-for-11 and didn’t drive a run in.
“We got 10 hits, but how you can string 10 hits over eight innings (with one run), I don’t know that,” Logan said. “We’ve gotta get these big horses somehow, some way, to get (runners) in, and we’re not doing that.”
Thursday’s game was scoreless through six innings as starters Griffith and Downing matched zeroes.
Greenup County finally got to Fritz for a run in the seventh when Hughes led off with an infield single, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Hunt’s line-shot single past a diving Slone in a drawn-in infield.
That put the Tomcats in a 1-0 hole headed to their final at-bat.
But Downing walked Matt Vincent and Drew O’Bryan to start the seventh, then Trent Woods dropped a successful sacrifice bunt against Greenup County’s wheel play, which is designed to make it difficult to bunt a runner to third base.
So Slone came up with two runners in scoring position and one out, showed bunt and quickly fell behind 0-2. But he hit a sac fly to center to plate Vincent, who scored uncontested when Hunt threw to third base.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit this year, so I just wanted to lift the ball in the air,” Slone said. “I knew Matt was fast enough to score when they were playing back.”
Fritz pitched a scoreless top of the eighth to set up the home half. Cox led off with a double and Aaron Elam drew an intentional walk to give Fritz an opportunity to win his own game.
“I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit,” Fritz said. “I knew we had some runners in position, and they walked (Elam) before that and went to me, and I just tried to put something out there.”
He hit reliever Christian Wireman’s pitch to deep right-center to score Cox easily.
Ashland has scored two runs or fewer in six straight games. It has managed to win half of them by being solid on the mound and in the field.
“Our pitching has been, I think, excellent all year long,” Wilcox said. “(Griffith) is getting stronger and stronger for us, and he’s out there battling every inning and doing a great job, and then Cam came in and we had a couple plays here and there that saved us, and that’s what good teams do.”
The Musketeers dropped to 1-8 in games determined by one run.
“We can’t put ourselves in that predicament,” Logan said. “We should’ve had five, six runs. Many, many opportunities, didn’t take the opportunities and when you don’t take the gifts, it’s gonna be tough.”
GREENUP CO. 000 000 10 — 1 10 0
ASHLAND 000 000 11 — 2 8 0
Downing, Wireman (8) and Coldiron; Griffith, Fritz (6) and Fritz, Mullins (6). W — Fritz. L — Wireman. 2B — Downing (GC), Cox (A).
ZACK KLEMME can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658.