SMITHERS — The dark clouds that resulted in a brief, torrential downpour Saturday matched Chris Walls’ mood for most of the afternoon.

After a 52-minute rain delay, Walls’ Oak Hill Red Devil baseball team escaped with an 11-9 win over the Valley Greyhounds, but the coach was far from ecstatic afterward.

A strong start, including a four-hit, three-run opening inning keyed by Tyler Oliver’s RBI single and a two-run double by Marcellas McFarland, allowed Oak Hill to go ahead 6-1 in the game’s early stages. But the Devils were forced to rally after the Greyhounds batted around — then some — in the third inning, plating eight runs to move into a 9-6 lead.

It was his team’s seeming lack of urgency after building up a cushion which particularly rankled Walls.

“We got lazy after we got the big lead,” he said. “With our defense, we’ve got some injuries and some players playing out of position.

“(Some players) slacking on both ends is starting to cost us.”

The Red Devils manufactured two runs in both the fifth and six innings to reclaim the lead at 10-9, then first baseman Garrett Thompson slugged his second home run of the day — a solo shot over the centerfield fence — to give the Devils (23-2) some breathing room at 11-9 in the top of the seventh. One pitch later, the deluge hit.

When play resumed, Valley pitcher Robert VanMeter got Oak Hill’s Kyle Colon to fly out to right, leaving the Greyhounds with one more opportunity.

In the seventh, Oak Hill reliever Frankie McGraw pitched himself into a hole when he walked the ‘Hounds’ Andrew Johnson and VHS catcher Tyler Sears rapped a single to left. A wild pitch then advanced the runners to second and third, but McGraw dug in and struck out VanMeter, Mason Wriston and Nick Accord to allow Oak Hill to escape.

“Down 9-6, we could have easily folded our tents and gone home,” said Walls. “The kids showed some character, because Valley’s a good team.”

In the third, Valley’s Cameron Belmont smacked a single, then Oak Hill starter Dustin Nuckels walked four straight to let VHS creep to within 6-3. Sears then lofted a single to shallow left to score James Newkirk and Josh Thompson, both whom had walked, to make it 6-5. Valley knotted the score at 6-all on VanMeter’s RBI single up the middle, and the hosts pushed across three more, including Belmont’s two-run homer, before Jonathan Taylor fanned to end the inning.

Like Walls, Valley coach Joe Craffey said his squad let its guard down when it got a lead.

“We had our chances,” he said. “We left too many people on, and also we sort of relaxed when we went up on them.

“We didn’t quit when we were down 6-1, but you can’t let up against a quality team like Oak Hill.”

Walls said Thompson’s second long ball was a crucial hit because “a two-run lead is a heck of a lot better than a one-run lead.” A key defensive play, he pointed out, was when the Devils’ McGraw picked off Valley’s Taylor at second in the sixth. “That pick-off was a big turning point,” Walls said. Craffey termed the play “a back-breaker.”

For Valley, Sears was 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs, Belmont was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, Thompson drove in a pair of runs, Accord was 2-for-4, and Johnson, Wriston and VanMeter drove in a run apiece.

VanMeter struck out four and walked two.

Valley (14-9) won the day’s second game, 4-3 over Cross Lanes Christian.

Newkirk earned the pitching win and was 2-for-2 at the plate. Thompson was 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI, and Accord, Belmont and Josh Easterling each supplied a single.

Sectional play against Charleston Catholic begins Tuesday, May 6 at Douglas Epling Field at East Bank. Single games will be played at 6 p.m. nightly, with the if-neccesary contest set for Thursday.

Oak Hill begins sectional play at Shady Spring early next week.

— E-mail: skeenan@register-herald.com

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