GREENVILLE – The Greenville varsity baseball team defeated the visiting Xenia Buccaneers 7-3 Friday night.
“Great defensive game tonight,” Greenville varsity coach Eric Blumenstock said. “It was a great game.”
Colton Nealeigh took the ball on the mound for coach Blumenstock, setting the Buccaneers down in order in the top of the first inning with back-to-back strikeouts and a grounder to Bailey Haworth at second.
First inning singles off the bats of Nealeigh and Ryan Eldridge were left stranded with the score 0-0 after one complete.
Xenia went three-up and three-down in the top of the second on a groundout to Cole Ward at third and back-to-back fly balls to Quinton Wood in center field.
“Keeps running them down,” Blumenstock said about his center fielder.
After opening the second inning with an out, the Wave put two runners on by way of walks only to be stranded with a fielder’s choice and a groundout, keeping the game scoreless after two.
A Nealeigh strikeout, a groundout to Ward at third and a Nealeigh strikeout had the Buccaneers going down in order the first three innings of the contest.
Ward led off the bottom of the third for the Wave with a single to center followed with a Nealeigh triple in the gap to right-center, scoring Ward and giving Greenville a 1-0 lead.
R. Eldridge followed with a single to center, sending Nealeigh home and making it 2-0 with three innings in the books.
A groundout to Haworth at second and a Nealeigh strikeout had the Wave’s senior pitcher retiring the first 11 batters he faced before walking the third batter of the inning.
“Bailey (Haworth) played good over there (second base) on defense,” Blumenstock said. “He’s normally our starting catcher, but the kid can play just about anywhere.”
A sharp grounder to Wave third baseman Cole Ward had the final out in the top of the fourth with the Buccaneers taking the field trailing 2-0.
“Cole (Ward) took a lot of them today,” Blumenstock said. “He has those games. It seems like he has a target on his back, and they hit a bunch of them there. That is why I have him playing third … he makes all of them.”
In its half of the inning the Wave got an Ethan Clark infield single and a walk to Wood. Unable to move the runners along the score remained 2-0 after four.
Greenville first baseman Kyle Bruner, returning from a game off due to an injury, fielded a grounder for the first out of the fifth inning followed with a Xenia walk.
A Buccaneers fly ball to Wood in center and a groundout to Ward at third had the Wave holding on to the 2-0 lead.
The Green Wave went down in order in the bottom of fifth with back-to-back popups to second and a groundout to third with both teams playing solid defense.
“The kid Xenia threw today was real solid,” Blumenstock said.
Three-up and three-down starting with a first-out grounder to Haworth at second, a second-out popup to Ward at third and a Nealeigh strikeout had the Wave’s senior pitcher tossing a no-hitter through six innings.
“It was by far his (Colton Nealeigh) best pitched game of the year,” Blumenstock said. “He’s hitting his location, his off-speed stuff was right there, getting ahead, first pitch strikes, all the good stuff.”
Wave catcher Reece Hunt opened the bottom of the sixth with a two-base hit followed by an infield Logan Eldridge single, putting runners on first and third.
“Reece Hunt is getting better and better every day,” Blumenstock said. “He’ll be my starting catcher next year. It’s good to get him in there and get him some work. He’s really coming through big.”
Ethan Clark reached first on a fielder’s choice with the throw going home and Hunt sliding safely under the tag, giving the Wave a 3-0 lead with two on and no outs, bringing a Buccaneers pitching change.
A Wave strikeout brought Ward to the plate with the senior driving a one-out single to left, scoring L. Eldridge for a 4-0 advantage.
Batting in the three hole, Nealeigh stepped to the plate and drilled a three-run homer over the left field wall, scoring Clark and Ward ahead of himself and giving the big right hander a four-RBI night and a 7-0 Greenville lead heading to the seventh inning.
“Deep shot to left field,” Blumenstock said. “This is the time last year where he really went off (13 hits in a row and batted .620 for the season). That’s big for us.”
Xenia opened the top of the seventh with a groundout to Haworth at second followed with a single, breaking up Nealeigh’s bid for a no-hitter.
A one-out Xenia double had runners on first and third followed with a groundout to Ward at third for out No. 2 and the Buccaneers picking up a run to trail 7-1.
A two-out double made it 7-2 followed with a run-scoring single to right for a 7-3 score.
“I went out and talked to him (Nealeigh) in the seventh inning,” Blumenstock said. “His back was tightening up a little bit on him, but I had to let him finish it.”
A walk had the bases loaded and the tying run standing at the plate. Nealeigh reached back, throwing a strikeout for the final out of the game and preserving a 7-3 Green Wave win.