Crusaders suffer first setback

DAVISVILLE – Wirt County sophomore Trent Hardbarger struck out 10 in tossing a complete-game five-hitter, quieting Parkersburg Catholic’s potent bats, as the visiting Tigers toppled the Crusaders from the unbeaten baseball ranks by a 7-2 score Wednesday afternoon at Marshall Field.

Catholic, now 9-1, will attempt to get back on the winning track today, hosting LKC North foe St. Marys at 4:30 p.m., the same time Wirt (6-7), fresh from its biggest win of the season thus far, will be entertaining Wood County Christian today.

Other than in the first inning, PC wasn’t able to put anything together enough offensively to score against Hardbarger, while Wirt got to Crusader starter Mike Hinton for a run in the first and two more tallies in the second to take the lead for good at 3-2.

J.T. Stephens drew a bases-loaded walk in the top of the first for the Tigers, but Catholic answered back in the home half of the first on a two-run single by Austin Luther to go up 2-1.

Wirt, though, put up a two-spot in the second on back-to-back two-out RBI hits, a double by Wes Valentine followed by a single off the bat of Austin Cottrell.

PC did have other opportunities to plate runs, but left a runner stranded at third in the fourth frame. Then in the fifth, the Crusaders had two on at second and third with no outs on Jake Ullman’s leadoff triple followed Luther’s walk and steal of second. But two strikeouts sandwiched around a ball hit back to Hardbarger on the mound for an out at first squelched that threat.

In the meantime, Wirt tacked on a run in the fifth without a hit on an error, stolen base, a groundout moving the runner to third and an unsuccessful fielder’s choice try at home.

Then Caleb Ferguson delivered the coup de grace on the Wirt win with a bases-loaded three-run double in top of the seventh.

”We’ve kind of had our ups and downs so far this season,” said Wirt head coach Jeff Smith. ”And Trent’s kind of been a tough-luck loser in a few games. But then we’ve been a little erratic too. When we field the ball, we’re fine because I think we hit the ball pretty well as we did today. However, when our fielding lets us down, I think emotionally, we kind of let down.

”But if we field like we did today behind whoever’s pitching, I think we can have a shot against most people.”

Catholic head coach Tom Harvey said his team ”needed to come more focused to play today. They threw strikes and we couldn’t get a big hit when we needed to. They got big hits, though, and were able to capitalize on our mistakes.”

Harvey reiterated that ”it’s more about being focused than anything though. We just can’t keep playing from behind all the time. We have to have a better approach at the plate, and we have to make more plays in the field. They wanted it more than us today, and got it done when when they had the opportunity.”