VIDEO: Forbes Road beats McConnellsburg in playoff game Video by Lizi Arbogast
Pitching and defense weren't Forbes Road's biggest concerns heading into Wednesday's District 5 Class A first-round baseball game against McConnellsburg.
The Cardinals were primarily concerned with picking up their hitting, knowing they'd need a nearly-perfect effort against the streaking Spartans.
Forbes Road put together one of its most well-rounded efforts to hold down McConnellsburg, 6-1. The victory places the Cardinals (12-7) in a semifinal against top-seeded Meyersdale (16-2) on Friday, at a site and time to be determined.
"We had more than a week since our last game, so we concentrated on a left-hander because we figured (Garrison Crouse) would be going against us," FR coach Randy Gelvin said. "We brought in some alumni guys and had a lot of left-handers come in and throw against us. We focused on hitting, because we hadn't been hitting the last four or five games."
Eight hits were the recipe for success for Forbes Road, which also got a phenomenal pitching effort from rookie Grayson Hall and reliever Brycen Hohman. Hall threw just five innings but finished with a staggering 11 strikeouts, only two of which were called. Hohman fanned four in two innings of work.
"I was just hitting my spots and mixing my pitches well, and I got a lot of swings and misses," Hall said.
McConnellsburg coach Brian Ramsey said, "We had guys on all day, and when we had guys in scoring position, (Hall) got tougher. We didn't find a way to put the ball in play. That was a lot of the difference in the game."
Trailing just 3-0 after three innings, the Spartans (10-11) had a golden opportunity in the top of the fourth. Quintin Miller and Ryan Koontz both drew walks to lead off the inning, and both got into scoring position with a stolen base each and a passed ball. But with no outs and a big threat to his team's lead, Hall dug deep and struck out the next three batters in a row.
"That was a big turning point in the game," Ramsey said. "If we could've gotten one or two hits in that situation, suddenly 3-0 could turn into 4-3 in our favor, but it just didn't happen."
Hall was helped along by a prolific offense and a flawless defense. Aaron Schepis and Matt Brown each went 2-for-3, and Hall helped his own cause with a pair of RBIs.
The loss broke an eight-game winning streak for the Spartans, who made an incredible comeback to even make it to the postseason.
"I think we were the 15th seed at one point, and we came all the way back to be the fifth seed," McConnellsburg's Logan Little said. "I mean, as soon as we were 2-10, practices were a lot better. We took everything more seriously, but we just couldn't finish it today."
Landon Richards finished with three of McConnellsburg's five hits, and Little drove in the Spartans' lone run of the game.