Valley’s John Luke Bailey twirls gem in section win over Derry

Tuesday, April 6, 2021 | 8:03 PM

Valley senior John Luke Bailey didn’t find himself in many tough situations Tuesday as the Vikings hosted Derry in their first Section 3-3A game of the season.

When he did, though, his defense had his back.

The Vikings (4-1, 1-0) battled out of two tough spots against the Trojans (1-1, 0-1), and Bailey threw a five-hitter while striking out five to earn his second win of the season in a 3-2 victory.

“My defense played their butts off today,” Bailey said. “Ben (Aftanas) made some of the best plays I’ve ever seen him make in his entire life, and then the bases-loaded diving backhand by Shane Demharter, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

The Vikings got their first run in the bottom of the third when Javon Keys led off with a double, stole third and scored on an Aftanas sacrifice fly.

With some solid defensive play, Bailey cruised through the first four innings, allowing only two hits while striking out four. In the top of the fifth, he ran into his first trouble of the afternoon.

Derry’s Ryan Hood led off the inning with a walk, and Jaden Jackson, who pinch-ran for Hood, scored from second on a Lucas Ray RBI single. The Trojans still had the bases loaded after a Ryan Bushey walk, so Valley coach Jim Basilone took a trip to the mound.

“I told them to take a deep breath,” Basilone said. “I told them they were good. They got this. I just wanted to give them a piece of confidence and let them know they could get it done because good teams get it done, and we’re a good team.”

Moments later, Ulery lined a ball that looked to be headed for the gap between Aftanas at third and Demharter at short. But the senior shortstop made a diving backhand play and threw out Bushey at second to end the inning.

“The left side of my infield is just absolutely amazing, and that play was just a complete confidence boost for us,” Bailey said.

In the top of the sixth inning, it was Aftanas’ turn as he made a diving backhand stop down the line and threw the runner out at first. He followed it with another spectacular play on a slow dribbler in front of him to keep the Trojans off the bases. Bailey finished the inning with a strikeout.

In the bottom of the inning, with two outs, runners on first and second and a full count, Demharter hit a deep drive to the right-center gap to score Luke Caprino, who was pinch-running for Cayden Quinn, and Evan Henry for a 3-1 lead.

“Our word for the year is ‘finish,’ and we preach never die, never give up, work hard, always be in the game and do the best you can for your team,” Basilone said.

Elijah Penich hit a home run in the seventh inning to bring his team within one, but Bailey shut the door after fielding two straight ground balls.

Trojans coach John Flickinger said liked the way his team was able to battle back throughout the game.

“The kids were itching to play, and we finally got to play an opposing team and we knew it was going to be a dog fight,” Flickinger said. “They are well coached, and we knew they were going to play good defense and they did. They made a couple more plays than we did. That was the story of the game tonight, I thought.”

Paul Koontz got the start on the mound for the Trojans and went four innings, struck out one and allowed one run on six hits.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .

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