By Chuck Housteau
After an impressive run through the Division II sectional and district tournaments at Cene Park, the West Branch Warriors were stopped cold by league rival Marlington in a regional semifinal.
The Dukes (22-9) blasted 10 hits, including five for extra bases, and pitcher Justin Summers shut out the Warriors in six innings for a 10-0 victory.
Marlington and West Branch are both members of the Northeastern Buckeye Conference and split a pair of regular season match-ups this spring.
Marlington will face Walsh Jesuit today at 5 p.m with a trip to Columbus on the line.
“We came to play,” said Marlington coach Scott Gabelt. “Justin was outstanding and our offense was on top of its game.”
Summers, a left-hander who will pitch for West Virginia next year, gave up only five singles and struck out five with an impressive fastball.
“Justin was able to throw strikes and get ahead of the hitters,” said Gabelt. “When he does that he makes the other team have to hit his pitches instead of the ones they want to hit.”
Marlngton jumped on West Branch ace Kolin Stanley, who is headed to Marshall next year. The Dukes scored three runs in the first inning when four of the first five batters had three hits and a walk.
The first two Duke batters reached on a single and walk before Harrison Dickerhoof blasted a double that drove in one run while the second runner came around to score on an error.
Dickerhoof later scored on an RBI single by Austin Webb.
“We got behind early and that took us out of our game,” said retiring West Branch coach Lynn Grove. “We like to play small ball and move runners and make things happen but once you get down against a pitcher like Summers that is very difficult to do.”
Grove said Summers was outstanding.
“He’s the real deal,” Grove said. “I think we came out tight against him and we were swinging at pitches we did not want to swing at. We were swinging at the pitches he wanted us to and you won’t beat him like that.”
The Warriors (19-12) never did get the bats untracked against the lefty although sophomore third baseman Matt Unkefer did manage three hits.
“Mike’s been one of our best hitters all season,” said Grove. “We just weren’t able to help him out.”
The Dukes chipped away with a run in both the third and fourth innings before blowing open the game in the fifth with four runs.