KINGWOOD — A battle of the bats took place between Kingwood Legion 56 and Morgantown Post 2 at Preston High on July 18, but by the end of the seventh an old cliché held true — offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.
What began as a struggle between Morgantown’s Colton Matthews and Kingwood’s Tucker Livengood to slow the oppositions’ bats turned to a nightmare for the hosts’ fielders, as errors began to pile up en route to an 11-5 Post 2 victory.
The difficulties in the field were the factor that Kingwood coach Jeff Pyles believes decided the winner. Livengood gave up five runs, none earned. REliever Andrew Kerzak gave up six runs, just three of them earned.
“When you play a good baseball team, you can’t make errors. We made quite a few errors tonight, and that was the difference in the game,” he said. “We just didn’t make plays tonight that we’ve consistently made all year. That was absolutely an abnormal fielding night for us. Not to take anything away from Morgantown — they have a great team. You just can’t make mistakes against good teams.”
Post 2, known across the region for its hot bats, galloped out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning, but sputtered — recording just one more run before the seventh. Meanwhile, Kingwood pulled two runs behind with the help of Kerzak’s strong arm.
“I think we handled adversity well in a couple of situations where Kerzak got our guys off balance — he controlled the pace of the game for a while and he really had us off our game,” Post 2 coach Tyler Barnette said. “Hats off to him — that’s what happens when you have a good pitcher, and he’s a good pitcher.”
Kingwood’s troubles returned in the last inning, however, as Post 2 drove home another five runs to go on top by seven. Kingwood loaded the bases in retaliation, but a miscommunication between base runners and a quick double play held the home squad to one run, ending the hopes of a last-minute rally.
“We come out here every night and work hard. We make mistakes but we battle back. We made a couple mistakes in the last inning that cost us a few runs, but you saw that the kids didn’t quit until the end,” Pyles said. “We’ll learn from it, and come back last time.”
Matthews also played a large part in the struggles for Kingwood, slowing opposing batters just enough to allow Post 2 to run up the scoreboard while demonstrating what Barnette described as “excellent composure.”
He wound up with the complete0game win, allowing just two earned runs.
“I think we did well in the beginning, and I felt like I was shutting them down for the most part in the start. We fizzled out in the middle, but we got back in it and got the win in the end,” Matthews said. “Their top of the lineup hit my off-speed pretty well. I just kept trying to keep it low, down and away from them, and it started to work.”
Andrew Berry had three of Post 2’s 16 hits, and Gavin Cottle, Caleb Taylor, Devon Neal, Cam Stoldt, Ethan Smith and Chandler Watts had two hits each.
Neal and Smith each drove in three runs. Smith had a home run.
Austin Forbes and Ethan Haskiel had two hits apiece, among Kingwood’s nine.
For Pyles, the game proved a measuring stick for an underrated 19-8 Kingwood squad against one of the top teams in West Virginia Legion baseball. He appeared satisfied with the result, even in a loss.
“This gives us a good idea of where they stand for tournament play. They know now that they can compete with anybody. That’s what we came out here to do this season, and that’s where we’re at,” he said. “They know where they’re at and what they can do. We have a lot of guys that can hit, and we hit pretty decently tonight. It was just a disappointing fielding effort.”
The win advances Post 2 to 26-6, continuing the most impressive campaign for the Morgantown club in recent memory. As the area tournament closes in, Barnette aims to keep the momentum high.
“I think we can build on everything. I’ve been telling these guys that with every win their ceiling gets a bit higher but their floor also get a bit lower,” he said. “We need to maintain and build on each and every practice and game. We have to do something better than we did before each time.”