HUNTINGTON — John Dennison couldn't have written a better script for his 14-under Babe Ruth baseball team in this week's Ohio Valley Region tournament.
Dennison's Huntington Southeastern team completed pool play Saturday with a 3-0 record after defeating Guernsey Valley (Ohio) 2-1 at Huntington High's Cook-Holbrook Field.
Southeastern clinched the top seed in the tournament with its perfect pool record and holds any tiebreaker because the two runs scored against Huntington through the first two days led all teams. Southeastern will meet the winner of the No. 3 vs. No. 6 game at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday at the YMCA Kennedy Center Field.
Guernsey Valley, like South Bend Eastside (Indiana) on Friday, scored a single run against Huntington in the first inning, but Southeastern held the Ohio state Babe Ruth champions scoreless through the rest of the contest.
Guernsey Valley's Tyler Dodd led off the game with a single and was driven home on Angelo Rocco's double for a 1-0 lead it would hold until the fourth inning. Huntington Southeastern pitcher Hayden Mattison pitched out of the first-inning trouble without any more runs allowed.
Ohio had at least one hit every inning, outhitting Huntington 8-2, but couldn't get a run home that would have extended its lead. Ethan Jeffrey had both Huntington hits and scored on a fielder's choice in the fifth inning, breaking a 1-1 tie and gave Southeastern the lead.
"I feel like we're the best team in the tournament," said Jeffrey, who was named Huntington's Player of the Game by statisticians.
Despite his two hits, Jeffrey didn't drive in either of Huntington's runs. That came by way of timely hitting.
Second baseman Ben McElroy reached by way of a fielder's choice in the fourth inning and moved to third after Guernsey Valley starting pitcher Jake Valentine was called for two consecutive balks.
With only one out, Mattison hit a sacrifice fly to center field that scored McElroy to tie the game. Jeffrey hit his second single in the fifth inning, reached second after Valentine was called for another balk then stole third.
Jeffrey came home on a bunt back to the pitcher's mound from Hunter Chapman. The throw home from Valentine came out of the mitt of Rocco, the Ohio catcher, when he went to make the tag.
Dennison, the manager of Huntington Southeastern, said his offense did a good job of putting the ball in play. But, unfortunately, "We're hitting a lot of gloves," he said.
As was the case Friday, Huntington's strength was its pitching.
"The pitching off the mound has been unreal," Dennison said. "We didn't walk a lot today. We did hit one (batter), but we battled through a lot of situations."
Mattison started the game pitching four innings, allowing one earned run on five hits. Mattison walked two, had one hit batter, and struck out two.
In the fifth inning, Austin O'Malley took over on the mound and recorded the final six outs. In two innings pitched, O'Malley allowed three hits and no runs.
For the game, Guernsey Valley stranded 10 on the bases.
Valentine was named the Guernsey Valley Player of the Game for his effort on the mound. He was pulled after pitching 5 2/3 innings having thrown 75 pitches, 10 under the limit allowed by Babe Ruth rules.
Aside from his five balks, Valentine allowed two earned runs on just two hits by Huntington.
Having played only one game on Friday, Guernsey Valley had two games on Saturday including the contest versus Huntington. South Bend Eastside defeated the Ohio champions 13-3 later that day.
Following Saturday's games, the top six teams based on record and with the fewest runs scored against them, were seeded in Sunday's bracket. Those seedings were unavailable as of press time.