CLARKSBURG - The baseball bounced high into the air after Liberty's Jaylen Bartley chopped down on it with two outs in the final inning of play here Monday evening, yet the lanky lefthander on the mound thought he could still make the play.
As the ball just eluded his glove, Elkins shortstop Tyler Shreve came streaking in to scoop it up, fire to first and preserve Ben Lonergan's no-hitter and 7-0 victory.
"I was trying to get the ball," Lonergan said a few moments after tossing his gem. "I'm tall, so I thought I could reach. Tyler backed me up really well and made the play."
The Inter-Mountain photo by John Wickline
Elkins lefthander Ben Lonergan struck out eight and faced only two batters above the minimum in firing a no-hitter Monday night against Liberty in Clarksburg. Elkins defeated the Mountaineers 7-0.
It was about the only time Lonergan was tested on the crisp evening in Clarksburg. He faced only two batters above the minimum, striking out eight and walking only two. A third Liberty batter reached base after striking out on a pitch in the dirt, but reaching safely on the subsequent throwing error.
"It seemed like he had good control of all of his pitches," Elkins coach Adam Roth said. "When he started rolling after the first inning, his confidence began to build."
Elkins, 6-7, took advantage of two Mountaineer miscues in the first inning to score Shreve and then broke the game open with three runs in the third off tough-luck starter Josh Davis. Davis absorbed the loss despite giving up just four hits and striking out six. He did allow five walks and hit three Elkins batters in his four innings on the hill.
The Tigers scored twice in the fourth, the big blow coming off Shreve's bat after two outs.
"It was good to get that key hit," Roth said.
Lonergan continued to breeze through the Liberty lineup in the final three innings, though he relied on his defense more down the stretch.
"About the third inning, I started noticing that they weren't hitting the ball very well, and we were playing good defense," Lonergan said. "A good defense makes a good offense."
For Liberty, 2-9, it was more of the same frustrations that have plagued them this season. Coach Russ Nutt is still searching for answers to right a ship that still features many of the same players who made a Cinderella-story run to the Class AA Final Four last spring before bowing to eventual state champion Wyoming East.
"Our whole approach is either we are overly aggressive or we are timid," he said. "I know we are lacking confidence."
Shreve had two hits to lead the Tigers at the plate, and Clayton Collett stroked a run-scoring double. Jacob Wyatt and Kollin Hopwood also slapped run-scoring singles for the Tigers.
Elkins returns home tonight to host Grafton, while Liberty will travel to face Buckhannon-Upshur.