NUTTER FORT -- Scott Robey believes Thursday's playing conditions usually hurt his team's offense. Those conditions helped Robert C. Byrd to a big inning and led it to a sectional championship.
Slow grass at Frank Loria Memorial Field allowed John Dolan to score from second base in the fourth inning. The Eagles (20-7) scored twice more and rode the pitching of Frankie Sutton and Matt Lewis to a 3-1 victory over Nicholas County (12-13).
They swept the Grizzlies in the sectional series and advance to the Class AAA, Region I semifinals at Buckhannon-Upshur on Monday.
Grizzlies starter Daniel Deal held Robert C. Byrd to one hit in the first three innings. Dolan and Andrew Shreves started the fourth with back-to-back singles.
Two batters later, Lewis hit a grounder which snaked through the middle of the infield. It died instantly in short center, and Dolan never stopped running. He scored to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
"John Dolan's not one of the fastest players on the team, but he runs to the best of his ability," Lewis said. "Anything hit out there -- the outfielder has to come in real far to get to the ball."
Robey said after several days of rain, the Loria infield dirt slows down his runners a step or two. But he didn't hesitate to send Dolan.
"To be honest, these field conditions hinder us on the basepaths," Robey said. "We've got some kids that can run, and when you're playing on a soft field, it's hard to get your footing."
Sutton's two-out single to right scored courtesy runner Jordan Gwinn and Lewis, and Robert C. Byrd was in business with a three-run lead.
Nicholas County had a baserunner in four of the first five innings but didn't score off of Sutton until the sixth. The Grizzlies went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
The lone hit came after Jack McCutcheon reached on an infield single. He moved to third on an error and scored on a single from Jacob Bostic for the only run of the game.
Sutton (5-2) convinced Robey and pitching coach Brad Nutter for a shot at a complete game. Robey agreed but knew he would make a change at the first sign of trouble.
"He was losing a little bit of velocity late in the game, but he came to me and said, 'I want to finish," Robey said. "When a kid has that kind of confidence in himself, I don't want to take it from him. We decided to let him start the inning and see how he did. We didn't want to take a chance."
David Tincher led off the Grizzlies seventh with a double to left, and Robey brought in Lewis to finish. He struck out the first two batters and ended the threat and the game on a groundout for his fourth save of the year.
"Matt Lewis has been giving us that kind of performance every time we put him on the mound," Robey said. "Whether we ask him to start or whether we ask him to come in in the middle of the game, he's been doing the job for us."
Sports writer Rob Peirce can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.