NITRO, W.Va. -- The Dick Henderson Memorial Bridge linking the towns of Nitro and St. Albans was recently demolished and is being rebuilt, but the "Battle of the Bridge'' between the two high schools remains.
Right-hander Clark Bryant bridged that current gap with a four-hit shutout effort Tuesday, leading St. Albans to a 3-0 victory at Brandon Matthew Sneed Field. Bryant struck out four and walked two for the Red Dragons (15-6).
"I felt everything was falling into place,'' Bryant said. "I was hitting my spots - changeup, slider - all that was hitting and I kept it coming. My slider was throwing them off a little bit and my changeup was making them pop up.''
The annual baseball skirmish between the teams usually hits a fever pitch during sectionals, but Tuesday's regular-season meeting tacked on a good amount of incentive, too, as the teams slug it out for what could be the final spot in next week's Mountain State Athletic Conference championship tournament semifinals.
Nitro (13-6) entered the week holding down the No. 4 position in the MSAC standings, with SA in fifth. However, the Wildcats might still sneak into the event if they beat Cabell Midland and Huntington this week.
St. Albans made sure Tuesday was its day with a three-run uprising in the top of the second inning, during which the Red Dragons collected five of their six hits for the game. Bryant, Taylor Braley and Austin Harless each donated an RBI hit.
That was all the support Bryant needed, and he didn't get much else. SA didn't manage to get another runner to third base the rest of the game, and Nitro just one.
"Neither team swung the bat very well,'' said SA coach Rick Whitman. "Between the two teams [Monday] we had a total of two hits [in separate losses]. For us, it was more just our approach and plan. We had it there for an inning, squaring some balls up, but other than that we were hitting pitcher's pitches, and when you do that you usually get out.''
Nitro used three pitchers - all freshmen - in Jacob Bradley, Andrew Stone and Tyler Abbott and they combined on a six-hitter and fanned six. However, two hits apiece from Ryan McDoough and Kip Brewer was all the offense the Wildcats mustered.
"That's been the summary of our year,'' said Nitro coach Steve Pritchard. "If I can figure out how to steal first and home, we can score some runs. But until I can figure that out, it doesn't look good.
"I don't know what it is. We've done everything, so we're going to try a different route. We're not beating good teams on our schedule with pitching and defense, so we're going to go with pitching and whoever's the best offensive players. We owe it to the other kids to see if they're better offensive players because the kids who have been playing haven't been doing well enough to give us a chance to win against good teams. We haven't beaten a good team. I'm not saying the teams we beat are bad, I'm just saying we haven't beaten a good team.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.