By Ben Robinson
COVINGTON — It has been a trying season for the Covington Buccaneers, but the four seniors on the roster (Nathan Blei, Kenny Atkinson, Josh Sowers and Triston Francis) walked off the field for the final time with smiles on their faces after a come-from-behind 6-5 win over Franklin Monroe in a makeup game on Saturday.
“It has been a tough year,” agreed Covington coach Mitch Hirsch. “But it was good to see the kids come back from a disappointing tournament loss a few days ago and get end it (the season) with a win.”
For one senior, the win had to be very rewarding considering all he has meant to the baseball program over his four years as one of the best baseball players to ever wear the black and white.
“Nathan Blei is a special player – the best all-around player I’ve ever coached and I’ve been her sixteen years,” said Hirsch. “Everywhere we go other coaches come up to me and say good things about him. I know he didn’t get the win on the hill today, but at least we won the last high school game for him, Kenny, Triston and Josh.”
Covington, who ends its season with a 5-16 record, lost eight one-run games and Blei pitched in seven of those games.
“He threw his butt off all year, but was never rewarded with a win because we either didn’t back him up on defense or failed to score enough runs,” Hirsch said. “He would have got his first win today if we played defense, but we had four errors and gave up four unearned runs.”
Covington took a 2-0 lead with a run in the first and another in the second, but Franklin Monroe took advantage of four Buccaneer errors to take a 5-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
This set the stage for a thrilling finish and Braden Miller led off the inning with a base hit and Mason Dilley drove him in with a big hit after Miller moved to second on a walk by Blei.
Blei eventually scored on a passed ball and then Josh Sowers connected on a fly ball to center to scored Dilley and send the game into extra innings.
Kenny Atkinson, who entered into the game after Blei ran out of pitches in the sixth, kept Franklin Monroe off balance in the seventh and eighth to set up an exciting finish for the Buccs in the bottom of the ninth.
Covington loaded the bases with one out to force the Franklin Monroe to play its infield in. Branden Miller then drilled a line drive between third and short for a walk-off single.
And the first players to reach Miller were the seniors.
“This was a good way for us to send our seniors out,” Hirsch said. “Hopefully the younger kids put in the work and come back ready to go next year.”
For Blei, who has earned twelve variety letters in three different sports in his high school career, Hirsch hopes his chances at post-season accolades aren’t hurt by the team’s record.
“There’s not many kids like him and we’re hoping he gets rewarded because he definitely deserves it,” said Hirsch. “Like I said, he’s the best I’ve ever coached.”