MAY 11, 2016 - TRIAD
Covington coach Mitch Hirsch was optimistic that his team was capable of making a long tournament run - if it could find a way to get through a brutal sectional.
"This sectional is stacked every year," Hirsch said. "You have us, Fort Loramie, Triad, Mechanicsburg, Russia, Lehman, Riverside - there are six or seven teams in the Troy upper and lower sectionals capable of winning districts. I felt we had the team this year to do it."
Unfortunately, with all of those quality teams, just two will advance past the sectional. And more unfortunately, Hirsch and the Buccaneers will not be one of them after suffering a 4-0 loss to #2 seeded Triad on Wednesday.
"It was really a game that could have went either way," explained Hirsch on how evenly matched the two teams were. "The difference was they took advantage of couple of opportunities and we didn't."
It was a pitcher's dual between Covington's Nathan Blei and Triad's Shane Ford, so opportunities were at a minimum as both hurlers were outstanding.
Covington's first chance to put runs on the board came in the top of the first as the Buccaneers had runners at first and second with one out. But Ford was able to force a ground out and a fly out to center to end the threat.
"If we could have strung together one more hit there in the first inning, the complexion of the game changes," Hirsch said.
Neither team could mount a challenge until the bottom of the third as Triad scored on a fielder's choice to make it 1-0.
Covington looked like it was going to break through in the top of the fourth as it once again put two runners on with one out. But once again, Ford and the Cardinal defense were able to get out of the jam to hold on to the one-run lead.
"When you play good teams with good pitching, you're only going to get a couple of chances," said Hirsch. "We weren't able to take advantage of those chances."
In the fifth, Triad was able to take advantage of the chances it received as throwing errors by Covington on back-to back plays resulted in three Cardinal runs crossing the plate - all with two outs.
"If we make one of those plays, it's still a 1-0 or 2-0 game," Hirsch said. "Instead we're down 4-0 and I think the kids started forcing things trying to get back into the game."
Which fit right into Ford's hands as he was able to get Covington batters to chase pitches out of the strike zone over the final two innings.
Still, Covington was able to mount a challenge in the top of the seventh as Levi Winn led off with a single and moved to second on a sac bunt.
But the glimmer of hope for a comeback was dashed as Ford forced a popup and then recorded a strikeout to end matters.
"Our kids have nothing to hang their heads about," Hirsch said. "We knew coming into the tournament that it would be tough, but we felt if we got through this one we'd have a good chance of making a long tournament run. We just ran into a very good team who made just a couple of more plays than us and less mistakes than we did."
For Covington, Jared Williams and Levi Winn both went 2-for-3 and Nathan Blei recorded a hit.
Blei went the distance on the hill for Covington as he only gave up one earned run and limited a very potent Triad lineup to 7 hits.
Ford also went the distance for Triad as he allowed just five hits and struck out six.
The loss ends Covington’s season at 11-10, but Hirsch feels his team is much better than its record.
"Like I told the seniors after the game, these kids came a long way since day one," Hirsch said. "We started out three-and-seven and went eight-and-three in the second half of the season with two of those losses by one run. With the schedule we play and with how many games we have to string together in a week, that's something to be proud of."
SCORE BY INNINGS:
Covington - 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 0 - 5 - 2
Triad - 0 0 1 0 3 0 X - 4 - 7 - 0