BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — Class AA No. 1 Bridgeport had little difficulty moving into the driver’s seat of Region II, Section 1 on Thursday.
The Indians scored seven runs over the first two innings en route to a 10-0 win in six innings against Lincoln.
“We had a really good approach at the plate,” Indians’ manager Robert Shields said. “We worked hitting behind runners and making contact. Our plate patience was good and that’s what set the tone.”
Nick Stalnaker was the catalyst for the early offense. The first baseman and No. 3 hitter connected for a double to right-center in the first inning, which scored Vincenzo Cava for the game’s first run. Trey Pancake drew a bases loaded walk to score Stalnaker, giving the Tribe (24-6) a 2-0 lead after one inning.
After Indians’ starting pitcher Tim Via escaped a bases loaded jam in the opening inning, the third-seeded Cougars (17-12) had their first three batters reach in the second.
Johnny Lopez and Hunter Williams had back-to-back singles before Brandon Arucuri drew a walk.
With the top of the order up, Lincoln looked to be in business. But Via recorded consecutive strikeouts of Baron Swiger and Cam Brown, before Hunter Moore hit a ground ball to second that ended the inning.
“Us getting out of those two jams early really helped, but I thought we were focused in from warm-ups,” Shields said. “They brought the intensity tonight and that was good.”
The Cougars stranded six runners through the first two innings and by the time they came to bat in the third, the deficit had grown to seven runs.
Brown issued walks to Austin Sponaugle and Ryan Goff before being lifted in favor of Williams on the mound.
Stalnaker’s two-run double to left made it 4-0 and Stalnaker scored his team’s fifth run on a wild pitch.
The Indians scored twice more in the inning, with a pair of errors on the same play allowing D’Andre Hollaway to score all the way from first.
Pancake stole second later in the inning and Evan Ogden broke home from third to score on the play.
Before the third inning, Shields elected to pull Via and turned to Conner Robe on the mound with his team comfortably ahead.
Robe rewarded the veteran skipper with three scoreless innings, allowing two hits and stranding a pair of runners in the fourth and fifth innings.
After Stalnaker added to his big day at the plate with an RBI single in the third, the Indians didn’t score again until the sixth.
Goff was hit by a pitch to plate Ogden for the team’s ninth run, while Cava singled to right to score Quintin Reep for the final run of the contest.
Stalnaker finished 3-for-3 with four RBIs and a pair of runs, while Cava was 2-for-2. The duo combined for more than half of their team’s eight hits.
“This time of the year it doesn’t matter about averages or anything like that,” Shields said. “You have to find a way to get on base and plate patience is the No. 1 factor because I trust these kids knowing where their good pitch is and what isn’t a good pitch.”
Brown suffered the loss after walking four and allowing four runs in one inning.
Lincoln will play at Elkins on Friday in an elimination game. The winner will have to beat Bridgeport twice, before the Indians win once with the title set to start Saturday.