By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Berea Community Pirates (17-8) rode a dominating pitching performance by ace Gabe Long to a 7-3 win over Casey County Wednesday.
Long pitched six innings, giving up only one earned run on two hits — a leadoff single in the first inning and a bloop single in the fifth — while striking out 14 batters.
The junior lefty struck out 11 straight batters before the checked-swing bloop-single in the fifth inning, and struck out 14 of the last 15 batters he faced.
He also helped himself at the plate and in the field, drilling a two-run double to center that missed going out of the park by a foot, and threw out a runner at the plate from center field to end the game.
“When I was warming up I could tell my arm was really loose and I was ready to go,” Long said after the game. “After that single by the first batter I settled down and pounded it. It felt good today.”
The Rebels jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first thanks to a Berea fielding error, but from that point on Long was un-hitable and the Berea bats came alive.
The Pirates got a run in the second on a perfectly executed squeeze bunt by Neil Claytor, to tie it at 1-1.
They went ahead for good with a run in the third inning on back-to-back singles by Justin Sandefur and Bradley Atkins, a sacrifice bunt — one of three on the day — by Claytor, and an infield single by Devin Strong.
Hunter Wilson made it 3-1 in the fifth inning with a towering solo home run over the scoreboard in center field.
Berea blew the game open with four runs in the sixth inning.
Daniel Wilkerson drove in Atkins, who singled to start the inning, with a single to make it 4-1. Strong scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-1, then Gabe Long drove a double off the center field fence to bring in Wilkerson and pinch runner Trevor Woods to put the Pirates on top 7-1.
Casey County got two runs in the seventh with the help of two Berea errors, but Wilkerson, who came on in relief of Long, got Landon Carmen to line out to Long in center field, who then fired a bullet to the plate to nail a runner at the plate to end the game.
Berea coach Sean Linville said he was happy with the way his team is playing heading into next week’s district tournament.
“We’re playing good baseball here at the end. Wilkerson came in and did his job in relief of Gabe and we had Neil Claytor do his job with three sac bunts on the day,” LInville said. “Our defense was solid for the most part all day and our bats came alive late and Gabe had a great day on the mound and at the plate and made a great play doubling up the runner to end the game.”
Wilkerson pitched one inning in relief, giving up two unearned runs on two hits, while striking out one batter.
Berea pounded out 10 hits on the day. Wilkerson had two singles and an RBI, Sean Long and Atkins had two singles each, Claytor had a single and an RBI to go along with three sacrifice bunts, while Sandefur had a single and Sandefur had a single and an RBI.
The Pirates finish up the regular season at home today against Sayre at 5:30 p.m.