Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
The West Union Dragons baseball squad opened their 2017 campaign on Thursday, March 30, hosting the Whiteoak Wildcats in their Southern Hills Athletic Conference kickoff. The script couldn’t have read any better for the Dragons as they got the perfect combination of pitching and hitting to hand the Cats an 11-0 loss, in a game called by the run-rule after five innings.
On the mound, sophomore right hander Brandan Cornell couldn’t have opened his season any better, as he no-hit the Wildcats, walking three batters and striking out nine in his five innings of work. At the plate, the big blow came from first baseman Jared Fenton, who cleared the right field fence for a three-run homer in the bottom of the second inning, when West Union scored six times.
The scoring began for the home team in the bottom of the first inning off of Whiteoak starter Traeten Hamilton, who likely deserved a better fate as his defense let him down to the tune of eight unearned runs.
In the bottom of the first, Michael Carson led off with a base hit to center, followed by a base hit by Janson Kramer. Another knock, this one by Cornell, loaded the bases, but it looked like Hamilton might escape trouble when he struck out the next two hitters. That was not to be, though, as an error by the Whiteoak second baseman on a pop fly off the bat of Fenton allowed Carson and Kramer to score for a 2-0 West Union lead.
The Dragons added to that advantage in a big way in their half of the second inning. Casey Mullenix was hit by a pitch, went to second on a wild pitch, and to third on a ground out by Cody Thornberry. Again, Hamilton looked like he might get out of the inning unscathed when he struck out Carson for the second out with Mullenix still at third, but a ground ball by Kramer was misplayed by the Cats’ first baseman, allowing Mullenix to score and make it 3-0 and opening the proverbial floodgates.
Kramer stole second, went to third on a wild pitch, and scored when Cornell drove a triple to center field. A base hit to center by Brandon Blevins brough Cornell across and made it 5-0, followed by Dylan Grooms drawing a walk, setting the stage for Fenton’s big blast. The left-handed hitting first baseman took an 0-1 pitch from Hamilton deep over the right field fence, scoring two ahead of him and giving the Dragons a commanding 8-0 lead.
With Cornell continuing to stifle the Whiteoak bats, the score remained at 8-0 until West Union came to bat in the bottom of the fourth. Kramer was hit by a pitch to begin the frame, followed by a walk to Cornell off of Whiteoak reliever Casey Nace. A ground ball forced Kramer at third, but a two-bagger to left-center by Dylan Grooms brought two across and put the Dragons in position for a run-rule victory. Just for good measure, a base hit by catcher Andrew Weeks drove home Grooms to make it 11-0.
All that Cornell need to do in the top of the fifth was keep the Cats from scoring twice and the game would be over, and he did just that, striking out the first hitter. A fly ball to Grooms in left recorded the second out and after a walk, a line drive found the glove of second baseman Kramer for the final out, in what according to Cornell, was the first no-hitter he had thrown at any level of competition.
In the win, the Dragons banged out eight hits, two by Cornell to help his own cause.
After that season-opening conference win, the Dragons went on the road on Saturday, April 1 to face Huntington Ross, where they dropped a doubleheader by final scores of 11-1 and 6-1 to sit at 1-2 on the season. West Union was scheduled to travel to Manchester on Monday, April 3 to make up a game rescheduled from last week, and then were slated to travel to Fairfield on April 4 and host Ripley on April 6. All three of those games were SHAC contests.
000 00 –0
260 3x – 11
Whiteoak Hitting (AB-R-H-RBI): Hamilton 3-0-0-0, Nace 2-0-0-0, Yeager 1-0-0-0, Lowe 2-0-0-0, Brill 2-0-0-0, Harless 2-0-0-0, Butler 2-0-0-0, Oliver 2-0-0-0, Roberts 0-0-0-0, Team 16-0-0-0.
W. Union Hitting (AB-R-H-RBI): Carson 3-1-1-0, Kramer 2-2-1-0, Cornell 2-2-2-1, Blevins 3-2-1-1, Grooms 2-2-1-2, Fenton 3-1-1-3, Weeks 3-0-1-1, Mullenix 2-1-0-0, Thornberry 2-0-0-0, Team 22-11-8-8.
Extra-Base Hits: Grooms 2B, Cornell 3B, Fenton HR
Whiteoak Pitching: Hamilton (L) 1.2 IP, 6 H, 8 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 41 pitches
Nace 2.1 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2K, 44 pitches
W. Union Pitching: Cornell (W) 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K, 96 pitches