HUNTINGTON - Huntington Southeastern manager John Dennison said Friday's opening day of the Ohio Valley Region Babe Ruth baseball tournament was going to be tough with his West Virginia state champions playing two games in pool play.
His team responded, however.
Huntington grabbed wins in each of its games at Huntington High's Cook-Holbrook Field, first defeating South Bend, Indiana, Eastside 3-1 with a rally in the late innings. It then capped the day with a 16-0, four-inning win over the East Kentucky Tribe. Dennison said his team was in a good spot for Saturday's final pool game against Guernsey Valley, Ohio.
"The goal is a one or two seed, don't really care which one. You get the bye in the bracket play on Sunday and pitching-wise its more feasible for us to come out with the bye. Tomorrow we got to bear down, play and continue not to give up runs."
A win in the 11:30 a.m. game Saturday against the Ohio champions would put Dennison's team at 3-0 in pool play. When the six teams are drawn later that day, the one and two seeds will only have to play once Sunday at 2:30. The one seed will play at George T. Smailes Field at the YMCA Kennedy Center while the two seed will play at Huntington High.
The championship will be played Monday at 10 a.m. at Cook-Holbrook Field.
Huntington has shown it has some pitching depth. Southeastern allowed one run in the first inning of its game against South Bend then shut out its opponent through the rest of the seven-inning contest.
East Kentucky, from Floyd County, threatened that streak when it loaded the bases in the top of the third with one out. Pitcher Hayden Mattison got Huntington Southeastern out of the jam with back-to-back strikeouts.
Dennison praised the pitching effort against South Bend in its win in the first game.
"The game we played against South Bend this morning that is a very, very good baseball team. We knew that coming in," Dennison said. "That ball game Ethan Riggs had the ball on the hill. He pitched a heck of a ball game. He kept us in the ball game. We were down 1-0. We were able to get our bats going. That's a team effort."
Offense has been key too for Huntington Southeastern.
Braden Shepherd's two-out single scored Eli Shouldis who had a big day. Jax O'Roark then scored on an error to put Huntington in the lead. O'Roark got credit for a run batted in in the bottom of the sixth when he walked with the bases loaded to set the final score.
Shouldis was 1 for 2 with a run and a walk in the win over South Bend. He was 1 for 2 against East Kentucky with a walk, a run scored and four RBI earning him Player of the Game recognition, a honor that gives him a commemorative pin.
"In big competition we all came together," said Shouldis, 15, from Barboursville. "Hopefully we get the one or two seed locked up with a win tomorrow."
Huntington Southeastern, at 2-0, is in first place over Guernsey Valley, located in Guernsey County approximately 80 miles east of Columbus. The Ohio champions played one game on Friday and defeated Floyd County 12-2.