PORTSMOUTH Ashland's 2020 high school baseball season was supposed to start March 16 at Lawrence County.
The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the Tomcats' campaign until Thursday. Ashland took the field doubling as American Legion Post 76's junior team, falling to Portsmouth Post 23's junior club, 4-1, at Hatcher Field.
“We were so excited,” Ashland senior-to-be Eli Miller. “It's been so long since we've been out on the field.”
It didn't seem to matter to Ashland first-year coach Evan Yongue that opening day took three months and 16 days.
“It's not what I was expecting,” Yongue said. “I'm just happy to get back out here with the guys.”
Portsmouth's (10-6-1) battery – pitcher Jake Sloan and catcher Caeleb McGraw — battered the Tomcats. McGraw went 3 for 4 with a run scored and Sloan registered five strikeouts in three innings.
McGraw and Sloan were not alone. Shortstop Darwin Spence scored a run, Rodney Moore clubbed a triple and Blake Stuntebeck drove home a run.
Ashland opened the game with an unearned run. First baseman Sawyer Alley scored on Sloan's balk.
Two words – assorted errors – largely described what happened when Portsmouth plated three runs off Miller in the bottom of the first.
After McGraw's single scored Brock Kitchen, McGraw scored as the result of Ashland errors. Kaleb Seals scored on Sloan's single to left.
The recap: three Portsmouth runs, three Ashland errors and a wild pitch.
“I think that's just a case of us not being out here for a couple months,” Yongue said. “We're a younger bunch. It could be a mixture of the inexperience and a little bit of jitters.”
Two more words – missed chance – characterized Ashland's third at-bat. Miller opened with a double to center and went to third on Nick Jividen's ground-out, but the drive fizzled.
Stuntebeck's single scored Spence in the third.
You could almost tell how Ashland's frustration continued in the fifth by watching Alley's anguish.
After Miller and Jividen walked, a curveball from Portsmouth's Vinnie Lonardo caught Alley looking – he bent over and smacked himself in the head. Eden flew out to center and Barnett struck out.
Ashland travels to Marietta for an 11 a.m. Saturday game. The Tomcats host Post 23 for a pair of five-inning games at 6 p.m. Monday at Central Park.
Ashland 100 000 0 –1 2 5
Portsmouth 301 000 0 – 4 6 0
Miller, Greene (4) and Sperry; Sloan, Lonardo (4), and McGraw. W-Sloan. L-Miller. Save-Moore. 3B-Moore (P). 2B-Miller (A).