Trent Mettler
Derrick Webb

Derrick Webb

Derrick is SOSA's chief content coordinator and has worked for the Chillicothe Gazette, the Portsmouth Daily Times and Eleven Warriors. He's a 13-time award-winning journalist, a self-proclaimed baseball purist, a suffering Bengals fan and has never met a stranger.

Blanton, Mettler carry Paint Valley to sectional title

It marks the program's second straight sectional title and fourth straight inside Division IV.

Derrick Webb, Staff Writer

BAINBRIDGE — For just a couple of minutes on Tuesday, Brock Blanton looked to be in trouble.

Facing South Webster in a Division IV sectional final, Blanton saw a hit and two fielding errors load the bases before he could find a deep breath to take.

Paint Valley’s Brock Blanton threw a complete game shutout in Tuesday’s Division IV sectional final against South Webster.
CREDIT: Derrick Webb/SOSA

But then he retired the next 17 hitters he faced — and 19 of the last 21 that stepped to the plate. 

Blanton’s pitching gem was the centerpiece of a 2-0 win over the Jeeps, which marked the Bearcats’ second straight sectional title and fourth consecutive while playing in Division IV.

“We talk a lot about Brock being our leader and about how we know he’s going to compete on every pitch,” Paint Valley coach Shayne Combs said. “We know if we make a mistake behind him, we need to stick with it because Brock is going to keep competing and we’ll make the next one.”

With the bases loaded in the top of the first, Blanton induced a double play ball that got the Bearcats (16-11) out of trouble. 

Paint Valley then scratched out a run, thanks to Trent Mettler, to take a 1-0 lead. Mettler reached base on a fielder’s choice after a single from Dax Estep. He then moved to second on a passed ball, took third on a groundout off Blanton’s bat and pranced home on a wild pitch for the lead.

And, put simply, with Blanton throwing the way he did, that’s all the Bearcats needed.

“I don’t think there’s any secret that the play of the night was that double play,” Combs said. “It settled us in. It settled Brock in. We were able to manufacture a run after. We knew what we were up against. [South Webster pitcher Robert Martin] is tremendous. So we didn’t feel like one [run] was going to be enough. But it worked out for us.”

Blanton found an absolute groove afterwards.

PHOTOS: Images from Paint Valley’s win over South Webster

The right-handed flame thrower ended the night with a pitching line that consisted of seven innings, three hits allowed and nine strikeouts.

“The first inning was kind of rough for us. We came out and made a few mistakes,” Blanton said. “But we settled in after. The umpire had an upper zone and once I settled in, I found a rhythm. My fastball was pretty good tonight and I got a rhythm for my curveball. So I settled in and just started doing my thing.”

Meanwhile, Mettler continued to five South Webster (10-17) problems on the base paths.

The Bearcats shortstop singled in the third before stealing second and scoring on an RBI double from Blanton. 

And, as for the scoring column, that’s all she wrote.

“The one thing about Trent Mettler is that you never have to remind him to play hard,” Combs said. “We feel comfortable using Dax [Estep] in the leadoff spot because of the versatility that Trent has in the two-hole. He really showcased that tonight. His ability on the bases … he made some good reads on the ball and that’s who Trent has been for us all year.”

Mettler finished the night 2-for-3 with a stolen base and two runs, Blanton went 1-for-3 alongside a double and an RBI, and Estep was 1-for-3 with a stolen base.

As for the Jeeps, Martin pitched all six innings, allowing an earned run on five hits and whiffing nine. South Webster’s three hits came off the bats of Trae Zimmerman, Aidan Andrews and Riley Cook.

Paint Valley will now travel to Clay for a Division IV district semifinal matchup at noon, Saturday.

The Bearcats and Panthers have met once this season already with Paint Valley winning an 11-0 decision.

“We have tremendous respect for Clay,” Combs said. “That’s a program that we’ve played more often than not in the regular season over the past couple of years. So we have an idea what we’re up against. And so do they. Coaches work hard and they scout well. There aren’t any secrets. You have to execute and that’s just tournament baseball. We’re going to see a talented young man on the mound and we’re going to have to find a way to score more than they do.” 

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