With four starters missing on Friday with collegiate visits planned, Woodberry Forest needed someone to step up. While more than a handful of athletes were able to do so for the Tigers, none had the impact on the game that John Harris did. Thanks to a complete game on the mound and a busy day at the plate, Harris and the Tigers were able to fight off Fork Union on the road for a 6-3 victory in a peculiar game that technically had no earned runs for either side.
“John’s been with us since his freshman year and he earned that spot and played great for us,” said Woodberry coach Chris Holmes. “He’s a guy that thrives on success. For him to get a homerun and have a lead before he ever stepped on the mound was huge. That’s his best effort, the longest he’s ever pitched for us in his three years here. He threw his pitches, fastball and cutter, both of them for strikes. I can’t tell you how proud of him I am.”
Harris got Woodberry started in the top of the first inning after Jameson Rice was able to reach base on an error. Hitting the in cleanup spot with two outs, Harris tagged an early pitch in the count and it cleared the fence to make it 2-0.
“All year I’ve just been trying to jump on the first pitch,” Harris said. “It’s probably going to one of the better one’s you’ll see in an at bat. I came up there trying to hit the ball hard to right field and got one out over the plate and I guess the reps in practice this week helped work everything else out.”
On the mound, Harris retired seven of his first 10 batters face and never gave up more than one base runner in the first three innings. Meanwhile, in the second, Woodberry made it 3-0 with a leadoff walk from Will Wallace, a passed ball followed by a stolen base and then an RBI single from Walker Owens.
Fork Union got things rolling offensively in the bottom of the fourth inning though to tie things up. With one out, the Blue Devils got back-to-back-to-back singles from Carter Crawford, Derek Teeter and Zion Villines with the latter plating Crawford. John Henry then reached on an error to score Teeter and Villines allowing the Blue Devils tied things up at 3-3.
“I liked the desire to compete there,” said Blue Devils coach Roger Bowles. “We got a couple fo hits there and then Henry has been struggling a little bit at the plate. But for the second time against Woodberry this week he finds a way to drive in a run. Anytime you can get something positive out of something when things are going your way, you’re happy.”
Woodberry answered with a 3-run rally of its own in the top of the sixth. Eli Drake led things off with a single and after a ground out, the bases were loaded with back-to-back walks. An RBI single from Rice put the Tigers back out in front. Billy Huger added some insurance in the next at-bat with a sacrifice fly. Then Harris helped his own cause once again with an RBI single to make it 6-3.
“I was really happy to see us come out in that inning and bounce back quickly, retake the lead,” Holmes said. “We got off to a slow start this season and we’ve been digging ourselves out of this hole ever since. I’m proud that these guys aren’t letting a slow start define their season.”
The Blue Devils got a 1-out single in the sixth and drew a 2-out walk in the seventh but ran out of outs before they could mount another rally with Woodberry’s defense playing error free in the last three innings.
“It’s a lot easier to pitch when you know they guys behind you are going to make plays,” Harris said. “That helps your confidence to throw strikes when you know your guys aren’t going to boot a ball.”
On the day, Harris was 3-for-3 at the plate with 2 RBI and gave up six hits while striking out four batters. Rice was 2-for-3 while Drake was 2-for-4.
For Fork Union, Teeter went 3-for-3 and was the only Blue Devils with multiple hits or on base more than once.. Drue Hackenberg, Hayden Miles, Villines and Crawford accounted for the rest of the hits for FUMA.
With both teams finishing with seven hits and two errors each, it just turned out Fork Union’s proved more costly.
“We make a routine play and we’re still playing,” Bowles said. “If we make those plays we get to hit again with a chance to win.”
Woodberry (5-5, 3-1) will travel to face Trinity Episcopal on Tuesday before getting the Titans at home on Friday. Fork Union (3-9, 0-4) has a home-and-away with Collegiate on Tuesday and Friday next week.