By Ben Robinson
CEDARVILLE —- Baseball is a game of skill, momentum and luck. It’s also a game where you experience the ultimate of highs and the lowest of lows – sometimes in the same game.
And the Covington Buccaneers’ 5-4 D-IV sectional tournament loss to Cedarville Wednesday saw all of those elements in what was seven innings of thrilling baseball by both teams.
First, the skill of baseball.
It’s a was a pitching and defensive dual for much of the contest as Covington starter Wes Gooding and Cedarville hurler Caden McKinion matched each other pitch-for-pitch over the first two-plus innings until the Indians plated three runs in the bottom of the third.
In the process there were some memorable defensive plays by both teams, but none more prominent than Covington’s Colton Francis tossing a dart to catcher Trenton Alexander at the plate for an out off the relay throw from right field.
Gooding turned things over to Raven Grilliot on the hill and the Buccaneer junior kept Cedarville off balance the rest of the way. Unfortunately, the host Indians were able to plate a run in the bottom of the fifth to take a 4-0 lead, which only added to the momentum for the home team.
For Covington, it had runners on second and third with one out in the top of the fifth and bases loaded with one out in the top of the sixth, but couldn’t come up with the clutch hit.
Grilliot and the Buccaneer defense did the job in the bottom of the sixth thanks to a great play at third by senior Gavin McReynolds, who collected a throw from Gooding in left to pick off an Indian runner.
Trailing 4-0 in its final at bat, Covington showcased the character of a team that improved dramatically from a one-win team a year ago by breaking through at the plate with the season on the line.
Stephen Sporek started things off with a one-out single to left and then Raven Grilliot singled up the middle.
Cooper Jay followed with a hit to score Sporek and then Kody Nelson was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Gavin McReynolds drilled a line shot to center that appeared to be headed for green grass, but Cedarville’s center fielder made a great play for the second out of the inning and force all Buccaneer runners to return to their bases.
Being a senior, McReynolds was visibly distraught in the dugout as Covington was one out from being eliminated from the tournament.
But Trentin Alexander came up clutch with a momentum-changing double off of the center field fence that cleared the bases and tied the score at 4-4. This brought McReynolds out of the dugout to hug his teammate while Cedarville went through a pitching change.
When play resumed, Covington’s Colton Francis flied out to right, but Covington had all of the momentum heading into the bottom of the seventh with the score knotted at four runs a piece.
Which bring us to the luck part of baseball, or as one might consider bad luck for the Buccaneers as the leadoff batter hit a routine grounder to second for what appeared to be an easy out.
Unfortunately for Covington the ball took a serious bad hop at the last second leaving the Buccaneer fielder helpless.
Caleb Criswell then doubled for the Indians and Covington elected to intentionally walk Colby Cross in hopes of getting the force out. The strategy didn’t work as CJ Pahl connected on a long fly ball to center that scored the winning run for the Indians.
In the end it was a case where Covington played a whale of a game, but Cedarville made just one more play than the Buccaneers.
Still, it showed the growth and maturity of a young team and the quality leadership of Gavin McReynolds and Tom Kuether, the two seniors.