Gray keys 12-1 ’Jacket victory over Bulldogs

WILLIAMSTOWN – The Class A Region IV, Section 1 baseball tournament is down to Williamstown and Parkersburg Catholic after the host Yellowjackets drubbed Doddridge County 12-1 in five innings Saturday afternoon behind the arm and bat of senior Eli Gray to oust the Bulldogs from the double-elimination event.

Gray, who broke his hand earlier this season, hurled a four-hitter with nine strikeouts and just three walks, in addition to belting a three-run first-inning homer and driving in five runs.

Williamstown (21-10) will now face Catholic (17-11) in a best-of-three series for the sectional crown, starting here at 5 p.m. Thursday. The Crusaders and Yellowjackets split their two regular-season meetings this year, each prevailing at home.

Saturday, Williamstown jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead in the first frame, highlighted by a pair of homers.

Gray, the third batter up, slugged a three-run shot down the left-field line and over the outfield fence in the corner at the 317-foot mark. Two hitters later, junior Jake Tracewell clubbed a solo blast deep over the fence in left for a 4-0 advantage.

Then sophomore Brye Mullenix capped the first-inning run output by dropping an RBI single into right-center field.

For Doddridge, Josh Smith replaced starter Mike Fraley on the mound just one out into the bottom of the first and for the most part, he held Williamstown at bay until a six-run fourth by the Yellowjackets pretty much decided the outcome.

In the meantime, Williamstown added a run without a hit in the third on two walks, a wild pitch and a passed ball before the Bulldogs (6-21) notched their lone score in the top of the fourth when Smith smashed a leadoff double to deep left and came around to score on consecutive ground-ball outs at first base.

Then in the ‘Jacket fourth though, Joel Swisher drew a bases-loaded walk, a wild pitch plated another run, and Bret MacIver and Gray each delivered two-run singles.

”Our guys reacted well in the first (inning) to their starter throwing really slow and hit the ball hard,” said Williamstown head coach Terry Smith. ”I thought too that Eli pitched pretty well, considering that he hadn’t pitched a whole lot because of his hand, so I wanted to give him some work. He had only gone four innings since his hand started to feel better, so that’s five more today.”

Williamstown’s two-homer first inning was ”the best anybody’s ever hit off Fraley this year,” said Doddridge head coach Dave Mires. ”But they just waited and jumped on him. Our guys didn’t quit though, right down to the last out.”

Plus, Mires stressed that with losing only four seniors to graduation and winning five of six games coming into the sectional, ”there’s something there to build on for next year. The end of the regular season was good momentum for us. You just have to forget about these (last) two games and go on.”