West Side Coach Shane Davis emphasized the importance of keeping your shoulder in tight against South Side Bee Branch pitcher Cade Sawyer, who used a sharp breaking ball to keep the Eagles off balance through the first two innings.
The Eagles listened to their coach and began to tag Sawyer. But given a four-run cushion early, the Class 1A No. 2 ranked Hornets held off West Side 8-6 on Tuesday in the 1A-2 South championship game at Mustang Field.
With South Side leading 8-4, Sawyer gave way to shortstop Mason Duncan with out in the fifth and the hard throwing right-hander picked up the save, finishing off the fifth and holding the Eagles scoreless in the final two frames.
West Side Coach Shane Davis was pleased with his team's effort a day after beating host Midland 12-6 to secure a No. 2 seed in this weekend's regional tournament.
“I am extremely proud of our kids' effort tonight,” said Davis. “We got down early 6-1, had five walks, one hit batter and three errors in the first three innings but the kids stayed up and battled back so you have to commend them for that.
“We left a few too many on tonight but we tip our hat to South Side. They are a quality ball club with a great coaching staff. Hopefully we will get another shot down the road. New season starts for us Friday. It's win or go home time so hopefully we can stay hot with the bats and sure up some things on defense and in the pitching department. If we do I like our chances of advancing [to state].”
Facing West Side starting pitcher Austin Kirkland, South Side scored three runs despite only one hit in the bottom of the first inning. After Will Pennington drew a one-out walk and scored on Garrett Collums' ground ball turned error, Brian Dumas delivered a two-run single to left field with two outs, scoring Collums and Josh Payne, who also reached on an error.
Sawyer pitched around an error, walk and hit by Blaine “Pepper” Hipp in the top of the second, leaving the bases loaded when Tyler Cowley flied out to Zac Capps in left field.
South Side extended its lead to 4-0 in the bottom of the second when Pennington pulled a two-out RBI single through the hole on left side, plating Capps, who led off the inning with a walk.
West Side (11-11) scratched across a run in the top of the third as Bryce Hipp worked a full-count walk and moved to third when Mason Treece hammered a double down the left field line.
Jimmy Thomas drove home Bryce Hipp with a one-out RBI groundout to Duncan at shortstop, pulling the Eagles within three at 4-1.
Page 2 of 3 - The Hornets (19-6) responded with two runs on two hits in the bottom of the third as Payne walked and advanced to third when Hunter Pennington slammed a double to the alley in left center.
With the bases loaded and one out, West Side caught a tough break as Kirkland struck out a batter, but the ball bounced high over the backstop, allowing Payne to score.
Capps followed with an RBI groundout to Ben Hargrove at third base as the Hornets built a 6-1 lead before Thomas, who relieved Kirkland with two outs in the inning, used a wicked curveball for a strikeout, stranding two runners in scoring position.
Trailing by five, the Eagles battled back with three runs on four hits in the top of the fourth, sparked by three consecutive singles from Dalton Treece, Brandon Carr and Pepper, whose single ended up scoring Dalton Treece once South Side committed a throwing error.
Bryce Hipp followed with a chopper to shortstop, where Duncan made a smooth charging play to nip Hipp at first base as Carr scored to pull the Eagles within three at 6-3.
With two outs, Mason Treece stroked an RBI single to center field that scored Tyler Cowley, who reached on an error. But, just after Cowley crossed home plate, South Side threw out Mason Treece at third base, ending the top half of the fourth.
Leading 6-4, South Side added two insurance runs in the bottom of the fourth as Will Pennington launched a solo home run over the wall in left center and Collums singled and scored on an RBI sacrifice-fly off the bat of Dumas.
West Side refused to give in, battling back in the top of the fifth with two runs on three hits, starting when Hargrove scorched a double down the left field line.
South Side relieved Sawyer with Duncan, who Thomas greeted with a single to right center. Duncan retired the next two batters, including one by strikeout, before Carr smoked a 2 RBI double off third base and down the left field line, scoring Hargrove and Thomas.
With the Hornets holding an 8-6 lead and two outs in the top of the fifth, Duncan induced a fly-out to end the Eagles' threat.
Thomas shut down South Side in the fifth and sixth, only allowing one hit, but Duncan slammed the door for the Hornets by retiring 6-of-7 batters in the sixth and seventh ¬ only allowing Hargrove to reach by error.
Carr paced West Side, finishing 3-for-3 with 2 RBI and 1 run. Mason Treece (2-for-4) added two hits for the Eagles, while Bryce Hipp, Hargrove, Thomas, Dalton Treece and Pepper each had one hit.
Will Pennington led South Side, finishing 2-for-3 with 2 runs and 2 RBI, including a solo home run. Hunter Pennington (2-for-4) and Dumas (2-for-3) also collected two hits for the Hornets. Dumas led South Side with a game-high 3 RBI.
Page 3 of 3 - West Side opens 1A, Region 3 Tournament play at South Side Bee Branch tonight at 7:30 p.m. versus Mount Vernon-Enola.