GRAFTON, W.Va. — With his team playing its third game in four days and two more on tap Saturday, Frankfort baseball coach Matt Miller was hoping Brady Whitace could give the Falcons a few innings on the mound Friday at Grafton.
Whitacre, Frankfort’s everyday catcher, provided his team with much more. The right-handed sophomore threw 5 1/3 strong innings, holding the Bearcats to one run on two hits to lift Frankfort to a 7-1 victory at Upton Field.
“Brady did a great job on the mound for us,” Miller said. “I was hoping to get three innings from him so to do what he did is outstanding.”
Until he was removed from the game in the sixth inning, the most trouble Whitacre encountered was in the first. A two-out error allowed Garrett Moats to reach and Chase Setler followed with a single. That brought Dillon Williams to the plate, but Whitacre induced a ground ball to third baseman Damon Spencer to escape unscathed.
It took Frankfort (4-1) until the third inning to get to Grafton starter Chris Miller, but the Falcons broke through with three runs to go on top for good.
Spencer led off with a single and Michael White followed by drawing a base-on-balls to put two runners on. That brought freshman Peyton Clark to the plate for his first high school at bat. Clark, filling in for Whitacre behind the dish, belted a triple to centerfield that allowed Spencer and White to score. The Bearcats’ relay throw to the infield got away, allowing Clark to score for a 3-0 Falcons’ lead.
“Peyton Clark did a great job there,” Miller said. “He was a big part of today’s game. Our motto is next guy up and whoever’s turn it is, that’s the guy that takes the role and does well with it.”
A Grafton (1-4) error, combined with Brendan Whiteman’s single to center, put a pair of Falcons on to start the fourth inning. Frankfort then added to its lead when Sebastian Stewart drove in Jansen Moreland with a fielder’s choice to shortstop.
Whitacre got all three Bearcat batters to fly out to center in the fourth and the Falcons added to their advantage when they came to bat in the fifth.
A pair of errors by the Bearcats enabled Frankfort to score its fifth run. Zack Whitace reached on a miscue, before scoring on an error that allowed Chandler Rhodes to reach second, which gave the Falcons a 5-0 lead.
Whitacre issued a pair of walks in the fifth, but got a double play ball to short in between the base-on-balls to help keep his shutout intact.
Whitacre was removed from the mound in favor of Moreland with runners at the corners and one out in the sixth inning. Williams grounded out to short to score T.J. Summers for the Bearcats’ first run. A single by Devin Vanscoy later in the sixth allowed Grafton to put two runners in scoring position, but Moreland got Braden Nose to groundout to short, preserving the Falcons’ four-run advantage.
“We’re young and we’re realistic,” Grafton coach Hartsel Keener said. “We knew what we were facing. Frankfort has a great program and they’ve shown that year after year.
“My challenge to our boys was to go out and compete and make it a seven-inning game. As long as we’re doing those things, then we’re heading in the right direction. We continue to tell them to trust the process and get better every day and we’re doing that right now.”
Frankfort added insurance in the seventh inning when Rhodes grounded out to short to score Mason Davis and Brady Whitacre connected for a single to left that brought Caleb Hare home.
“I feel comfortable with our lineup and one through nine we hit the baseball,” Miller said.
Brady Whitacre finished with three strikeouts in the win, while Whiteman led the Falcons with three of his team’s nine hits.
Miller tossed all seven innings in the loss.
“This is the best game we’ve played all year by far,” Keener said in defeat. “So now that line in the sand is drawn and we have to worry about getting better from this point and not looking back.”