GREENVILLE – Nine Green Wave seniors wore the green and white for their final regular season game Friday, defeating the Northmont Thunderbolts 7-3 while gearing up for Division I tournament play Tuesday at Sater Park.
“Right now when we play somebody we know that is a big-time program, the kids come out and play 100 percent,” Greenville varsity baseball coach Eric Blumenstock said. “They are really fighting strong … play their tails off … they are good kids.”
The Bolts opened with a single and a steal, putting a runner on second with no outs. A fly to Ethan Clark in right had the first out of the inning.
Austin Baumgardner, the ace of the Wave’s pitching staff, came off the mound sprinting to his left, fielding a grounder and outracing the Bolts’ batter to first for out No. 2.
“Baum (Austin Baumgardner) hasn’t thrown a bad game all year,” Blumenstock said. “We’ve been in every single game he’s pitched. He’s a top end guy in the GWOC. I look forward to good things in tournament from him.”
A groundout to Ryan Eldridge at short kept Northmont off the board with the Greenville coming to the plate.
“Ryan (Eldridge) played a heck of a game on defense,” Blumenstock said. “We just try to be as solid as we can.”
The Wave went down in order in the bottom of the first while Greenville was shutting the Bolts down in the top of the second with an over-the-shoulder catch in center from Quinton Wood, a groundout to R. Eldridge at short and Baumgardner throwing a strikeout looking.
R. Eldridge opened the bottom of the second with a long single off the left field wall. A steal of second followed with an RBI double to right off the bat of Kyle Bruner gave the Wave an early 1-0 lead.
“Kyle (Bruner) is outstanding at first base. If it’s close, he’s pickin’ it,” Blumenstock said. “I have 100 percent confidence in what’s going on there with the glove. His bat was always his strength. I’m really comfortable with what he does for us defensively.”
A groundout, Logan Eldridge reaching by way of a hit batsman and a popup to third had two Wave runners on with two outs.
Clark beat out an infield hit, loading the bases, followed with an infield RBI single by a speedy Quinton Wood to give the Wave a 2-0 lead after two complete.
A fly to Clark in left opened the top of the third for the Thunderbolts. A passed ball on a Baumgardner strikeout and a Wave error had two runners on with one out.
Fly balls to Clark in left and Wood in center kept the visitors off the board in the top of the third while the Bolts were setting Greenville down in order in the bottom of the inning.
Northmont was unable to dent the fourth inning plate, putting two runners on and no outs with a single to right and a hit batsman. The Wave defense came up big with a fly to Wood in center, a groundout and a popup to Colton Nealeigh at second.
“(Colton) Nealeigh looks comfortable over there,” Blumenstock said. “Anything hit to him, he is making the plays, making the throws. He has soft hands, has the footwork going. The kid is going to be a good one.”
Greenville loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the fourth with singles off the bats of Bailey Haworth, Logan Eldridge and Clark only to be kept off the board with an inning-ending double play.
The Bolts cut the Green Wave lead to 2-1 in the top of the fifth with the aid of an error and had bases loaded with two outs for an inning-ending fly ball to Clark in left.
Cole Ward led off the bottom of the fifth with a single to left-center followed with a Nealeigh legging out an infield single, putting runners on first and second.
R. Eldridge laid down a surprise bunt, loading the bases with no outs and bringing the Wave’s power-hitting Bruner to the plate to drive an RBI sacrifice fly to deep center field, scoring a tagging Ward from third and giving Greenville a 3-1 lead.
Back-to back groundouts had the Wave taking the field heading to the top of the sixth.
The Thunderbolts put runners on first and third with no outs to opened sixth-inning play, cutting the Waves’ lead to 3-2 with a sacrifice fly to left with the first out.
Back-to-back fly balls to outfielders Clark and Wood had the Wave out of the inning leading by one.
An opening lineout to center had the Wave facing one out in the bottom of the sixth. Clark drilled a double down the left field line fair by inches, kicking up chalk with the ball going to the wall.
Wood collected a bunt single down the third base line, putting two runners on with Ward coming to the plate.
The Wave took a 4-2 lead with a Ward RBI single to left, scoring Clark followed with a Nealeigh double over the center fielder’s head plating Wood to lead 5-2.
“Cole Ward just keeps getting big hits,” Blumenstock said. “Hitting in the two hole, normally a get them over type guy, get a bunt down type guy, but I can stick Cole in the three hole right now and he would be driving in runs left and right for us. He’s making good solid contact, hitting it hard.
“I’m going to miss him at third … I’m going to miss all these guys.”
R. Eldridge kept up the Wave scoring attack with a two-run double to left-center with consecutive hits from the nine hole through the four hole, giving Greenville a 7-2 lead going to the final inning of play.
“Seniors help. We have so many seniors. We have leaders,” Blumenstock said. “A lot of these guys are not real fiery. It seems like most of the time their attitude is pretty even tempo.”
A backhanded diving play toward the third base bag had Wave third baseman Ward popping to his feet and throwing out the Bolts’ first batter of the seventh.
An error and a two-base hit had runners on second and third with Northmont picking up a run with a sacrifice fly deep to Wood in center for the second out.
The Wave nailed down the 7-3 win over Northmont with a line drive to Ward at third for the final out, capping a successful 2014 Green Wave season.
“They (seniors) all played outstanding,” coach Blumenstock said. “One of the better games. We played 11-12 games this year where I believe we could beat anybody in Division I. The other half we’ve looked good. We’ve struggled just a little bit. We’ve won a lot of them just because we hit the ball so well. It feels really good to put something together like this right before we go into tournament.”
“This is one of those years where they are all gone,” Blumenstock said of his nine seniors. “I coached these guys when they were freshman. They are all going to be gone here pretty soon. My job right now is to make that last as long as we possibly can.”