Three earned runs in the bottom of the sixth was enough for the Point Pleasant Black Knights to slip by the Magnolia Blue Eagles 6-3 in the Region I final May 23 at Point Pleasant High School.
The Blue Eagles open the game with a Ryan Walton four-pitch walk. Walton stole second, but after two straight strike outs, Zach Wilhoite drilled a rope off the glove of the Black Knight first baseman for a single, scoring Walton to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. Tanner Hanna singled, moving Wilhoite to second. However, an inning-ending grounder left two on base with one in scoring position heading into the bottom of the first.
A walk, a fielder's choice, and a single opened the bottom half of the first for Point. After a stolen base, the Black Knights had two players in scoring position with only one out.
The young Eagles committed a passed ball error that led to the Point's first run. After a single that scored their second run, Wilhoite induced a fielder's choice and struck out the next batter to get out of the inning without any more damage.
With Magnolia down 2-1, Jayson Keller opened the second frame with a walk and moved on to second after a Point Pleasant wild pitch. Keller scampered to third base on another Magnolia steal and waltzed into home on a grounder to second by his younger brother, Drew, to knot the game at two.
Wilhoite & Co. sat down the Black Knights in order in the bottom half of the second with three ground outs, two of which were scooped up by Jayson Keller at second.
After a leadoff ground out, Kyle Elliott singled, stole second, and raced home on Hanna's second base hit of the night to give the Eagles the lead once more. Hanna stole second and Grant Cain gave one a ride. But, the Point's left fielder caught up to it for the final out of the third.
The Black Knights opened the bottom half with a long double off the fence. Wilhoite threw a wild pitch that the Point base runner tried to score on, but Cain raced to the backstop and hit Wilhoite in stride at the plate to get the out on a nice defensive play. The play rejuvenated the Eagles who got the next two batters out for another one-two-three inning.
The Eagles went down in order to open the fourth, but after Wilhoite fell behind 0-3 on the Point Pleasant cleanup batter. He threw one down the middle that got drilled over the left center field fence to tie the game at three runs apiece. After the blast, Magnolia sat the Knights down one-two-three.
In the fifth, the Eagles struck out to open the frame. Chandler Sapp lined a rope to left field, but the Knight outfielder robbed him of extra bases on a nice defensive play for the second out. The Eagles would then strike out to end the inning still knotted at three.
The Eagle defense set the Black Knights down in order to end the fifth. After a strike out to open the top of the sixth, Hanna worked the Point pitcher for a walk. However, the Point's second baseman hauled in a solid liner, then quickly threw back to first to double off Hanna and end the sixth still tied up.
Hanna came in to relieve Wilhoite, but a pair of walks, a single, and a sacrifice fly gave Point Pleasant a 4-3 lead. The Point added two more runs on a double to give them a 6-3 lead.
Sapp came in and struck out the last batter to end the sixth.
The Eagles struck out three times in the top of the seventh and would finish the season with a 17-12 record. Magnolia will lose only two seniors to graduation this month - Jayson Keller and Bentley Knight. However, MHS Head Coach Dave Cisar will return seven starters, including all four pitchers - Kyle Elliott, Zach Wilhoite, Tanner Hanna, and Chandler Sapp. He also will bring back leadoff batter and centerfielder Ryan Walton, catcher Grant Cain, and utility player Drew Keller.
Magnolia will open the 2013 season in Class-A, but will remain in Class-AAA in the OVAC.