By Steve Keenan
For The Register-Herald
Watching the celebration unfold, Joe Craffey let it happen, even participated a little.
It, however, is not the celebration for which he yearns.
Craffey’s Valley Greyhounds turned a fairly competitive game into a rout in the latter stages Friday, registering an 18-1 defeat of Fayetteville in the Class A Region 3 baseball final.
The victory earned the Greyhounds (23-7) a berth in the Class A state tournament for the third straight season. Valley will face Region 4 winner Charleston Catholic at about 1:30 p.m. on Friday.
“They get to celebrate until Monday,” said Craffey. “Then we get ready for Catholic.”
Valley will hope to make more headway than in the past two seasons, which featured two opening-round state tourney losses.
“It’s great to get there, but there’s a sour taste in your mouth the past two years,” he said. “At some point, you want to win a game or two.”
Trailing 1-0, Valley pushed across four runs in the top of the second. During the frame, Todd Coleman had a sacrifice fly to score a run, and Joe Eckert, Mark Hess and John Riddle drew bases-loaded walks to push across three more scores.
The Greyhounds moved the margin to 8-1 in the top of the sixth. Arik McGinnis beat out an infield single and scored on Cody Winter’s double to the centerfield wall. In the next at-bat, Druw Bowen (3-for-5) smacked a two-bagger to nearly the same spot, plating courtesy runner Hunter Adkins.
“The score doesn’t indicate how close the game was for 5 1/2 to 6 innings,” said Craffey. “We started getting some hits and it kind of snowballed on them.”
After Coleman singled and Drew Jones and Raeshawn Breckenridge both reached on walks to start the top of the seventh, McGinnis (2-for-5, 5 RBIs) stroked a 1-2 pitch from Aaron Krise over the centerfield fence for a grand slam to mark the beginning of the end for the Pirates. Valley wound up scoring 10 runs in the seventh.
Fayetteville (18-15) got out on a good note, scoring a run in the first when Jake Holland’s single brought home Krise, who had reached on a passed ball on a third strike. But, McGinnis, the Valley starter, prevented any further damage in the inning, striking out two Pirates and stranding two on base.
McGinnis (4-3) wound up fanning 17 batters and scattering just three hits. He struck out the side in the fourth and two batters in each of the subsequent three innings.
“Arik did a good job of getting ahead (as the game wore on),” said Craffey.
“Arik pitched great, and we didn’t have an answer,” said Fayetteville coach Dan Poland. “You’ve got to put pressure on the other team.
“They’re a good team. They’re 23-7 for a reason.”
“I’m extremely proud of the kids in that (post-game) huddle with me,” he added about his own squad.
— E-mail: skeenan@
V: Arik McGinnis and Cody Winter, F: Trey Phares, Aaron Krise (5), Jake Holland and Aaron Krise, Jake Cogar (5). WP — McGinnis. LP — Phares. Hitting — V: Arik McGinnis 1-4 (Grand Slam, 4 RBI), Cody Winter 2-5 (2B, 3 RBI), Druw Bowen 3-5, F: Jake Holland 2-3 (RBI), Trey Phares 1-3.