Close one: Fort Frye hangs on to nip Shenandoah, 9-8

BEVERLY – Caden Brooker’s run-scoring single in the bottom of the sixth inning snapped a tie score as the Fort Frye Cadets clinched the 2013 Pioneer Valley Conference championship with a 9-8 victory over the Shenandoah Zeps at Cadet Field Friday night.

The Cadets honored their four seniors prior to the game and fittingly enough it would be Brooker, one of those seniors, who collected the game- winning hit to score the go-ahead run.

“Caden Brooker came up with a very big hit there at the end,” said Fort Frye head coach Sonny Bidwell. “Our seniors have all done a great job this year and I’m very proud of them.”

The game was played in a light drizzle for most of the game before the rain increased in the later innings.

The Cadets had leads of four runs (4-0) and five (8-3) before allowing the Zeps to tie the game up in the top of the sixth.

The Fort jumped all over Shenandoah starting pitcher Kaleb Thompson as it scored four times in the opening inning.

Starting pitcher Spencer Lang led off with a single and promptly stole second before scoring on a one-out single by Casey Hall.

Derek Layton brought in the second Cadet run of the inning with an RBI ground out to shortstop and Bradley Martin singled in a pair of runs to give FF the early 4-0 lead.

The Zeps got one of those runs back in the top of the second on a base hit by shortstop Danny Neuhart and a Cadet error.

Thompson helped himself with a two-run single in the top of the third to close the lead to a single run, but the Cadet offense put another four spot on the board in the last of the third to increase their lead to 8-3.

Freshman Issac Klinger’s two-run single and Lang’s RBI double to the fence in left field were the key hits in the inning.

The Zeps began their comeback in the top of the fifth off of Lang as James Luyster reached base on a one-out single and Neuhart and Tanner Moore followed with back-to-back doubles to make it an 8-5 game.

Bidwell replaced Lang on the mound with Casey Hall with two on and two out, and Hall escaped any more damage when he retired Jacob Warner to end the inning.

The Zeps went right back to work in the top of the sixth when Ryan Lovette opened the inning with a single and one out later, C.J. Danford, Luyster, and Neuhert strung together consecutive base hits to make it 8-6.

After Hall got Moore to fly out to center field, Jeremy King came up with a clutch, two-out, two-run single to tie the game at 8-8.

“There was no quit in either team tonight,” said Bidwell. “Each team had an answer for the other and every situation became big.”

Layton got the pivotal sixth underway for the red blue and white when he raced all the way to second base on a Zep throwing error.

Brooker followed with a high chopper just over the head of the third baseman to score Layton with what would prove to be the winning run.

Hall went back to the mound in the seventh and helped himself defensively in a big way to secure the Cadet win.

Pinch hitter Dakota Trenner led off the inning with a sharp grounder up the middle that Hall made a nice play on to throw him out at first with the first out of the inning.

Lovette followed with a single to right field but the game came to an end when Thompson drilled a screamer up the middle that Hall made another outstanding play on before firing to first to double up Lovette and wrap up the Cadets 15th victory of the season.

“Tonight we were able to come back on them but just came up a little short on the score board,” said first- year Shenandoah head coach Randy Sailing. “We made a couple of mental mistakes that proved costly.”

The win improved the Cadets season mark to 15-8 and their 10-2 mark assured them of yet another PVC crown.

Shenandoah slipped to 9-11 overall and 4-6 in conference play with the loss.

Hall was credited with the victory in relief, while Luyster was saddled with the loss in relief despite fanning three Cadets in just two innings of work.

Bidwell had high praise for his senior class that consisted of Lang, Brooker, Hall and Dylan Bowman.

“They gave us good team leadership and provided our younger players with a good team atmosphere,” said Bidwell. “I’m very happy for them.”

The Zeps outhit the Cadets by a 13-10 margin, but the Fort benefited greatly from 11 stolen bases in the game, including three each by Lang and Colton Shuster.

Both teams will now set its sights on tournament play as the Zeps travel to New Philadelphia Tuesday to take on Malvern, while the Cadets will play the winner of Saturday’s Bellaire versus West Muskingum game Tuesday back in Beverly.