By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Berea Community Pirates (8-3) fell 4-2 to visiting Bethlehem (8-4) in extra innings in the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday.
In the second game, the Pirates bounced back to pick up a 4-3 win.
The Eagles got two runs in the top of the eighth inning of the first game after the Pirates had battled back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game in the seventh inning.
Berea got an outstanding performance on the mound from Gabe Long.
Long pitched 7 1/3 innings, striking out 10, while allowing only two earned runs on six hits. He issued six walks, three intentionally.
The junior ace was almost unhittable the first five innings, allowing only three hits while picking up nine strikeouts.
Berea coach Sean Linville said he wasn’t surprised by Long’s outing because it’s what he does each time out.
“Gabe was on today, no doubt. But he hasn’t had a start yet this year that he hasn’t been on,” Linville said. “In my mind, if I had to have a game to win tomorrow against any team in the district, I would take him. And that’s not just because he’s on my team. I just think he is built for this game.”
Bethlehem took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, scoring an unearned run after a Berea fielding error.
The Eagles got another unearned run in the sixth inning to go up 2-0. Connor Beisler lead off the inning with a walk. He stole second and third and came in to score on a sacrifice fly to right field by Chance Bodine.
The Pirates got one run back in their half of the sixth inning. Third baseman Hunter Wilson drew a walk to open the inning. He promptly stole second, then moved to third on a groundout to second base by Justin Sandefur.
Wilson scored on an infield single to short by Daniel Wilkerson.
The Pirates rallied in the seventh to tie the game and send it to extra innings.
Sean Long beat out an infield single to get things started. Long was erased at second on a fielder’s choice ground ball to third by Bradley Atkins, who moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Neil Claytor.
Devon Strong then hustled down the line and beat out a throw from third baseman John Riney for an infield single, sending Atkins to third. The ball got away from Bethlehem first baseman Allen Webb, allowing Atkins to scamper home to tie the game.
Conner Ballard lead off the eighth inning with a single for Bethlehem. Riney followed that with one of only two hard hit balls off Long all day, driving a pitch off the left field wall for a double scoring Ballard to put the Eagles up 3-2.
After two intentional walks loaded the bases, Jimmy Keating singled to center to make it 4-2.
The Pirates got two hits, a double by Wilson and a single by Wilkerson in the bottom of the eighth but Bethlehem reliever Zach Smith got out of the inning without giving up a run to end the game.
Wilson lead the way at the plate for the Pirates going 1-for-2 with a double, walk and a stolen base.
Sean Long had two singles, while Wilkerson had a single and one RBI and Smith and Strong had a single each.
Wilkerson pitched 2/3 of an inning in relief of Long, giving up two hits and no runs.
The Pirates regrouped in the second game and came away with a 4-3 win behind another strong pitching performance by senior Devon Strong.
Strong went 6 1/3 innings, allowing only one earned run. Gabe Long came on in relief and got the final two outs of the game.
Linville said Strong’s performance was a bonus.
“I was kind of surprised by Devon’s outing today. To my knowledge this was the first game Devon has ever started and he pitched very well against a strong team,” he said.
In the first-game loss, the Pirate defense committed several errors that led to Eagles runs.
The second contest, Linville said the defense was much better, which contributed to the win.
“The key all day was our defense. We had a much better approach and the defense in the second game was outstanding,” Linville said. “We’re dealing with four or five guys that are being asked to play pretty important positions and they’ve never had to stay tuned in all the time, so it’s a learning curve. But we did a much better job in the second game.”
The Pirates are back in action on Friday when they travel to Casey County to take on the Rebels in a 1 p.m. contest, before taking on Sayre in the first round of the All “A” Classic in Lexington on Monday.