Sectional drama: Tigers ousted 2-0 by Waverly

WAVERLY – The fifth inning in Thursday’s Division II sectional final baseball game between Marietta and Waverly proved to haunt one Tiger squad and lift the other.

With both teams scoreless going into the frame, Marietta had a golden opportunity to break the game open.

Austin Hefter led off the inning by working a nine-pitch walk. Next batter Nick Lewis squared around to bunt but was plunked in the back by a Pierce Knisely offering before Jordan Satterfield drew a base on balls to load the bases with nobody out.

Following a coaching visit to the mound, Knisely settled down, retiring Marietta’s two, three and four-hole hitters in order to escape the inning unscathed.

Waverly, seemingly riding the momentum of getting out such a big jam, responded with a pair of runs, courtesy of three MHS errors, in the bottom half of the inning. Those runs proved to be pivotal, as they were the only two of the game by either club, giving Waverly the 2-0 triumph.

Waverly, which advanced to district play with the victory, is now 20-7 on the year. Marietta was eliminated with the loss and ended its 2013 campaign 11-16.

“Obviously, our inability to score with no outs in the fifth inning, we took it into the field,” said Marietta co-head coach Jim Thrash.

Elliot Newton began the bottom of the fifth by grounding to third, but a throwing error allowed him to reach base safely. Paul Underwood followed with a bunt for a base hit, but two throwing errors on the play allowed Newton to come around and score the game’s first run.

After Knisely followed with a bunt base hit of his own, Tyler Nartker hit a fly ball deep enough to center to plate Underwood from third and make it a 2-0 game. Knisely attempted to go to third when the throw home missed the cutoff man, but catcher Joe Roberts made a nice play to throw him out and help Marietta escape further damage.

Knisely made those runs count in a big way, as he allowed just one Marietta base runner in the final two innings to preserve the lead and seal the victory.

Waverly head coach Jeff Noble agreed that the fifth inning was the game-changer.

“We got ourselves into a jam and our pitcher got us out of it,” Noble said of Knisely, who went the distance and struck out 13 batters to earn the victory for WHS. “That was a huge momentum builder. A huge stop for us.”

Left-hander Evan Sawyer was the hard luck loser for Marietta. Sawyer went six innings, striking out two and walking one. He scattered eight hits but was able to get out of every Waverly rally except one.

Sawyer notched just one victory on the mound this season despite a sub-2.00 earned run average, highlighting Marietta’s offensive struggles this season.

“Evan Sawyer is the best one-win pitcher in southeast Ohio, if not all of Ohio,” Thrash said. “He was out there scrapping tonight.”

Even before the fifth inning, Marietta had chances to get on the board.

In three of the first four innings, the orange and black had a base runner get as far as second base, but each time was unable to get the big hit to bring them in.

Of course, Knisely did not make it easy.

“Their pitcher was very powerful,” Thrash said of the Waverly right-hander.

“Waverly’s got a nice ball club.”

Following the last out, it was very emotional on the Marietta side. The club loses seven seniors.

“We have seven outstanding student-athletes,” Thrash said of the seniors. “All these guys have devoted themselves to us for four years.

“Every one of them is headed off to college. We’re very proud of them as a group and we’re gonna be sorry to see them leave.”

Sawyer, Satterfield, Roberts, Lewis, Ben Barnas, Nick Spurr and Corey Spanner all wore the Marietta uniform for the final time Thursday evening.

Also, the contest is expected to be the final one of co-head coach Larry Burke’s career. Burke finished tied with Jim Jordan for the Marietta High baseball record for coaching victories with 402.