For The Independent
Ashland coach Jeff Wilcox applauded his team’s timely hitting ability.
Bath County coach Brock Baber praised the Tomcats for their directional hitting.
Whatever the adjective, the result was winning hitting as Ashland prevailed 7-3 over the Wildcats on Monday night at Alumni Field.
“We had some great timely hits tonight,” Wilcox said. “They made some great plays on grounders that we hit to keep them on the infield. But we just kept putting the ball in play, and Cade (O’Bryan) came up and delivered a big hit.”
With two outs in the second inning, O’Bryan shot a single through the left side of the infield to plate both Taylor Bradley and Logan Salow.
Aaron Elam made it four consecutive two-out hits one batter later when he tripled to deep left center field to score two more Tomcats. That gave Ashland a 6-1 advantage after two innings.
However, Bath County (17-7) narrowly missed escaping the second frame unscathed thanks to some great defensive plays.
Third baseman Jordan Highley dove to his left to glove Salow’s grounder, but the speedy senior managed to narrowly beat Highley’s throw for an infield single.
One batter later, it was shortstop Branden Fryman’s turn to flash the leather. The senior ranged to his right to field Jared Slone’s grounder, but lost his footing in the process. He still tried to get the lead runner at third but the throw, which he made from his backside, was not strong enough.
“That is baseball,” Baber said. “Sometimes they hit it right where we are not. Coach Wilcox does such a good job teaching directional hitting. We tried to put the shift on some guys and they went the other way. They are very good at recognizing that.”
All three Ashland lefties made use of the opposite field in the second inning to beat the shift.
Elam didn’t have to worry about the shift in the first inning, as no one was going to field his two-run home run that easily cleared the right-field fence.
“That was a big home run by Aaron there in the first inning. He had some really nice hits tonight,” Wilcox said. “Even the out he made was a hard-hit ball to first.”
While Elam and company were taking care of business at the plate, Cameron Fritz did his job on the mound. The junior needed just 77 pitches over his seven innings of work, in which he allowed three runs on six hits.
“They have some very good hitters on their team, and I thought Cam did a very good job pitching tonight,” Wilcox said.
Ashland (20-9) also turned in some stellar defensive work behind Fritz, including a pair of double plays. While defense has been suspect at times this year, Wilcox hopes the rest of the year looks a lot like Monday night.
“Those double plays always help your defense,” he said. “We are still a work in progress, but as long as we continue to make the routine plays we will be in games with a chance to win.”
Cable Wright and South Whitt each went 2-for-3 on the night for Bath County. Clark Kissick was 1-for-2 with an RBI.
BATH CO. 100 100 1 — 3 6 1
ASHLAND 240 100 x — 7 7 2
Moore and Whitt. Fritz and Mullins. W – Fritz. L – Moore. 2B – Whitt (BC), O’Bryan (A). 3B – Elam (A). HR – Elam (A).