West Side won its second consecutive game over a highly touted opponent on Monday as the Eagles pounded out eight extra base hits while pulling away from Midland's No. 2 ranked Mustangs 15-6 in 1A-2 South Conference play in Greers Ferry.
Midland, which defeated the Eagles 17-2 only a couple weeks ago, entered the game with high hopes of beating West Side to set up a winner take all conference championship game against South Side Bee Branch.
But, the Eagles had a much different idea on Senior Day in Greers Ferry, rallying from an early 4-0 deficit to take the lead. "We put together another great game offensively with 12 hits, eight for extra bases, six walks and two hit batters,” said West Side Coach Shane Davis. “And we only struck out five times, which is really good for us especially against quality pitching.”
Midland (14-4, 7-2), which now would have to beat South Side by at least seven runs to claim a league title, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Drew Fortson laced an RBI single to left field, scoring Skyler Furrow, who reached on a one-out single to right field and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch.
West Side starting pitcher Austin Kirkland got out of the first frame on a 1-6-3 double play turned by shortstop Bryce Hipp.
Midland left-handed starting pitcher Skylar Littaker cruised through the first two innings, striking out four while only allowing two base runners, including one by walk and one hit batter.
Leading 1-0, the Mustangs added three runs on two hits in the top of the third as Dalton Passmore and Fortson each walked and scored, while Furrow singled and scored as the Eagles committed two costly errors.
Down 4-0 entering the bottom of the third, West Side battled back with two runs on three hits, starting when Bryce Hipp pulled a double down the left field line.
With two outs, Ben Hargrove delivered an RBI single through the hole on right side, plating Bryce Hipp as Hargrove alertly moved into scoring position on a fielding error.
Jimmy Thomas followed with an RBI single through the hole on left side, driving home Hargrove as the Eagles trimmed their deficit in half at 4-2 before Littaker retired the side on a Kirkland fly-out to right field.
Midland added one run in the top of the fourth as Dalton Passmore reached on a four-pitch walk with one out and moved around to third on a pair of wild pitches.
Fortson slammed a two-out RBI single to left center, scoring Passmore as the Mustangs extended their lead to 5-2 before Kirkland completed the top half, inducing a pop-out to Bryce Hipp at shortstop.
Page 2 of 3 - West Side scored two runs on three hits to pull within one in the bottom of the fourth. After Dalton Treece ripped a single to center field, Brandon Carr drilled an RBI double to deep left field, plating Treece.
With one out, Blaine Hipp battled out of an 0-2 hole to draw a full-count walk, which placed runners at the corners for Bryce Hipp, who drove home Carr with an RBI sacrifice-fly to deep center.
Mason Treece kept the Eagles' inning alive with a hit-and-run single through the hole on left side, advancing Blaine Hipp to third base as Treece alertly took second on the throw back to the infield.
But, Littaker managed to escape further harm, inducing Hargrove into a fly-out to Braden Emerson in left field, leaving two runners stranded in scoring position as the Mustangs took a 5-4 advantage to the fifth inning.
Thomas, who relieved Kirkland to start the fifth, managed to pitch around three walks and one single with the aid of catcher Hayden Gilmore, who quickly snatched up a wild pitch and gunned down a runner trying to take third.
With the bases loaded, Dalton Passmore sent a sharp ground ball to shortstop, where Bryce Hipp made a smooth play to save at least one run.
Trailing 5-4, the Eagles stormed in front with four runs on two hits in the bottom of the fifth sparked by Thomas, who walked to lead off the inning.
After Midland relieved Littaker with Dalton Passmore, Kirkland pushed courtesy runner Logan Bailey into scoring position with a sacrifice-bunt.
Dalton Treece then reached on an error before Passmore responded with a strikeout. With two outs, Passmore looked to get out of the jam with another strikeout, but the low third strike got away as Tyler Cowley alertly scrambled to first base, causing a throwing error that allowed Bailey and Dalton Treece to score easily, giving the Eagles a 6-5 lead.
Blaine Hipp made the Mustangs pay further for the costly series of errors by hammering an RBI double deep down the left field line, plating Cowley. Bryce Hipp then smoked an RBI triple to the alley in right center, plating younger brother Blaine Hipp as the Eagles pushed their lead to 8-5.
Bryce Hipp took over on the mound for West Side in the top of the sixth, when Midland scratched across one run without a hit as Furrow drew a lead off walk and eventually scored on an RBI groundout off the bat of Hunter Biran.
Leading 8-6 entering the bottom of the sixth, West Side erupted with seven runs on four hits, starting when Hargrove laced a double to deep left field.
After Thomas took one for the team, Kirkland's sacrifice-bunt turned into a single and throwing error as the Mustangs vacated first base, allowing Hargrove to score as the throw hit Kirkland in the back and tricked into foul territory.
Page 3 of 3 - Dalton Treece followed with an RBI single up the middle that scored Thomas as the Eagles took a 10-6 lead, forcing Midland to relieve Passmore with Hunter Goforth.
Carr drew a walk to load the bases for Cowley, who lined out to second. With one out, Blaine Hipp worked an RBI walk that scored Kirkland, then Bryce Hipp drew an RBI walk that plated Dalton Treece, boosting West Side's lead to 12-6.
Mason Treece added an RBI ground ball to third that scored pinch-runner Tad Ramsey and Blaine Hipp also came around to score once the Mustangs committed a throwing error.
West Side (11-10, 7-3) pushed its lead to 15-6 when Hargrove lined an RBI double down the left field line, scoring Bryce Hipp before Goforth finally escaped the sixth by inducing a groundout.
Hipp only allowed a two-out infield single by Furrow in the top of the seventh as the Eagles clinched their second big win in less than a week. The Eagles defeated conference front-runner South Side Bee Branch 12-6 at home last week, building a head of steam entering postseason play.
Davis said it was extra special to come up with a big win on Senior Day and hopes the recent success carries into this week's district tournament.
“We really wanted to send our four seniors Jimmy Thomas, Austin Kirkland both 4-year starters as well as first year players Tad Ramsey and Logan Bailey out the best way we could,” said Davis. “The guys hung in there after getting down early and kept battling and they got rewarded with our second straight win versus a top 2 team in Class A,” emphasized Davis. “Hopefully we can carry this momentum into the postseason that starts Friday at Midland.”
Bryce Hipp finished 2-for-2, including a double, triple, 3 RBI and 2 runs. Ben Hargrove (3-for-4) added two doubles, 2 RBI and 2 runs, while Dalton Treece (2-for-4) scored 3 runs and produced 1 RBI for West Side.
Blaine Hipp (1-for-2) collected a double, 2 walks, 2 runs and 1 RBI, while Mason Treece (1-for-4), Thomas (1-for-3), Kirkland (1-for-3) and Carr (1-for-2) each had one hit for the Eagles. Thomas and Carr each scored 2 runs and drove home one run.