However slight it may have appeared to have been, the opportunity was there for Robert C. Byrd to earn a piece of the Big 10 baseball championship.
All that stood in front of the Eagles for a share of the league crown was Class AA No. 2 Lincoln a pair of games with rival and No. 6 Bridgeport and not to mention three other league games. One week an no losses later, head coach Scott Robey helped guide the Eagles to their first share of the Big 10 title since the 1999 season after finishing with an 11-1 mark to tie the Cougars.
"Our kids knew what they were up against and what we had to do," Robey said. "We had some kids step up every night and deliver. It was the same person or group of people. It seemed like each game someone did something that got us over the hump."
The Eagles got a stellar pitching performance from Chris Lake and Frankie Sutton in their 12-4 victory over Lincoln Tuesday. The duo held the Cougars' first four hitters (Eric Hardesty, Kyle Hurst, Seth Williams, Wes Osbourn) to a 1-for-15 performance after the hard-hitting seniors entered the game with a combined .401 batting average.
Lake also got the first win against the Indians, while Sutton clinched the share of the title for Robert C. Byrd with 3.2 impressive innings against Philip Barbour in which he fanned 10 and allowed just one hit.
Matt Lewis pitched a six-hitter in the Eagles second win over the Indians and was 4-for-4 against Lincoln, while catcher Andrew Shreves went 8-for-12 in four games.
Robey hopes the momentum can continue through the postseason. Robert C. Byrd begins sectional play at 6:30 p.m. tonight at Nicholas County. The Grizzlies handed the Eagles a 3-2 setback in the fourth game of the season to drop them to 1-3.
"I think this is a totally different team than the one we were at that point," Robey said. "We were still trying to find out who could play where and who couldn't. Since then, we've got all the kids in place and they've come together.
"(Nicholas) was solid with their bats. They make contact and they field the ball. We'll have to play well to come out of their with a victory."
Game two will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Frank Loria Field, while a third game, if necessary, will be back at Nicholas County Wednesday.
n CLASS AA: In Shinnston, Lincoln (21-2) takes on Bridgeport (19-9) in the second round of the Reg. II, Section 1.
Both teams rolled to easy opening round victories. Levi Maxwell gave up three hits and struck out eight, while going 3-for-4 in a five-inning, 10-0 victory over Liberty.
The Indians got a combined no-hitter from Justin Caroli and Brandon Brumage in a 14-1 rout of Ritchie County.
Lincoln swept the season series, rallying for two runs in the top of the seventh for a 4-3 victory.
"We've got to put the ball in play and make things happen," Bridgeport coach Robert Shields said. "We can't give up the long ball to them at their place.
"We cannot be intimidated by their senior-laden team."
The loser faces Liberty (6-19) Tuesday in the elimination game.
The Mountaineers battled back from its loss to Lincoln to defeat Ritchie, 10-0, Saturday behind Derek Bowen's 4-for-5, four RBI performance.
Liberty has battled through injuries which sidelined the Mountaineers' lone seniors, Dustin Morris and Josh Turner. Sophomore Zach Bowen has stepped up since returning from an injury.
n CLASS A: In Phillipi, No. 7 Notre Dame (21-7) face Tygarts Valley (11-8) for the Region II, Section 2 title at Alderson-Broaddus today at 5 p.m.
The Irish beat Doddridge and South Harrison by a combined 22-4 score. Notre Dame sophomore Tyler Musgrave fanned a mind-boggling 21 batters in a 12-3 win over the Hawks, while the Bulldogs rallied Saturday for a 7-6 win over South Harrison to advance.
The game is a rematch of last season's regional semifinal won by Tygarts Valley. The Bulldogs' Clint Taylor is 4-for-7 during the tournament, while teammate Ritchie Bennett is 3-for-7.
The Irish are led by junior Trey Simmerman (.524) and sophomore Justin Starkey (.494).
Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org