Perhaps the most exciting game of the still very young high school baseball season took place on Wednesday at West Union High School. There, the host Dragons found themselves in a 7-3 hole heading into their final at-bat, but grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat to rally with five runs, capped by a walk-off base hit by James McCoy, to slip past the visiting Manchester Greyhounds 8-7.
“We have several starters who don’t have much experience at the varsity level and that inexperience led to a few mistakes,” commented West Union head coach Sean Inman. “The great part about this game is that it was a great learning experience for a few of our guys and we still got the win.”
The contest featured a match up of two of the top pitchers in the Southern Hills Athletic Conference with Sean Frost taking the hill for the Hounds and Kyle Taylor for the Dragons. The two would combine for 19 strikeouts but it was the late inning offensive heroics for both sides that turned out to be the story of the game.
it was a scoreless battle through two innings before the Greyhounds broke the ice in the top half of the third. Tyler Brummett drew a walk, moved around to third on a pair of wild pitches, and scored the game’s first run when Bryan Young hit into a fielder’s choice.
That lead didn’t last long as the Dragons evened things up in the bottom of the third. Zach Hawes led off with a base hit to center and came all the way around when McCoy began his memorable day with a two-bagger to right field, making it 1-1. Frost got two strikeouts and a ground out to escape further damage.
Manchester came right back to retake the lead in the top of the fourth. With two outs, Frost singled to center and later came around to score on a wild throw to put the Hounds up 2-1.
The lead changed hands again when the Dragons came to the plate in the bottom of the fifth. Hawes led off the frame with a walk, but Frost struck out the next two West Union hitters. Gareth Shelton reached on catcher’s interference and when Taylor was safe on an error, Hawes came home to tie the game. Shelton then raced home with the go-ahead run on a passed ball and after five complete, the home team held a 3-2 advantage.
The roller coaster of a game took yet another loop in the top of the sixth when the Greyhounds battled back to again recapture the lead. With Shelton now on in relief for the Dragons, Rickey DeAtley led off the Manchester sixth with a base on balls, stole second, and advanced around to third on After a strikeout, Shelton issued another free pass, this time to Cole Hensley and DeAtley came home on a wild pitch with Frost at the plate. Frost popped to second for the second out and the third walk of the inning was issued to Hunter Conley. When Brummett reached base on a West Union error that scored Hensley, the Hounds had jumped back in front 4-3.
The bottom of the sixth turned out to be Frost’s last full inning on the mound and he wiggled out of a jam to keep his team on top. With the bases loaded and two out, Frost struck out McCoy looking but the West Union center fielder would have his revenge an inning later.
With Shelton still on the hill for the Dragons, Manchester got what looked to be some pretty important insurance runs in the top of the seventh. Nick Hoskins reached on an error by the shortstop and moved all the way to third on two passed balls. Mason Applegate drew a walk, causing Coach Inman to go to the bullpen again, bringing on Zach Hawes.
Hoskins came home on an RBI ground out by Young, the first batter Hawes faced. DeAtley drew a walk and Applegate came home on a ground out to first base. DeAtley had swiped second and went to third on the ground out and he came home on a Hawes wild pitch, giving the Hounds a seemingly comfortable 7-3 cushion, needing just three outs to wrap up their first win.
The Dragons had other idea, however and their bottom of the seventh heroics began when a Caleb Stephenson bunt was misplayed, putting the lead off hitter aboard. When Shelton drew a walk, Manchester coach Kyle Brewer went to the mound and pulled Frost, bringing on the southpaw DeAtley. DeAtley struck out the first hitter he faced but walked Brandon Daniel to load the bases and bring the tying run to the plate with one out.
Next to step in the box for the Dragons was Lance Holbrook and he came through with a base knock that drove home two runs and a third (Daniel) came in on the Manchester throw back to the infield, with Holbrook taking second on that same throw. J.J. Kramer came on to pinch run for Holbrook and raced home on a base hit by Tony Hostetter to tie the game at 7.
An infield hit by Hawes sent Hostetter to second and set the stage for the biggest hit of the day. McCoy took an 0-1 pitch and delivered a base hit to center field to bring Hostetter home with the winning run as the Dragons celebrated the exciting walk-off win.
Though the two teams combined for 15 runs, errors played a big part as only 5 West Union runs and 3 Manchester runs were earned. Still early in the season, only the second game for both sides, the two sides combined for 8 errors.
“I thought our young team played winning baseball for six innings,” said Coach Brewer. “Frost and Hoskins looked the best they have looked in their young careers as a pitcher/catcher combination.”
“It was also great to see our bats come alive throughout the game. We have preached all spring to put the bat on the ball and make the defense make plays. I thought we did a great job of that tonight.”
“Having such a young squad, we will keep learning as the season progresses,” Brewer continued. “Although it was a loss, I was very proud of how we handled situations throughout the game.”
The Greyhounds were led on offense by Hunter Conley and Sean Frost, each of whom had two hits. Lead off hitter Bryan Young drove home two runs. Frost went six full innings on the mound, allowing just four hits and one earned run, while whiffing 11 batters.
West Union got two hits each from Zach Hawes and James McCoy, with McCoy and Lance Holbrook each driving home a pair. Starter Kyle Taylor went 5 innings, allowed one earned run and struck out 8 hitters.
West Union evened their season mark at 1-1 while the Greyhounds dropped to 0-2.
“Kyle Taylor pitched another good game for us,” said Coach Inman. “Manchester hit the ball well but Kyle almost always finds a way to get out of an inning without too much damage done.”
“Defensively we struggled to make some easy plays. We had a couple of mental errors that hurt us but the boys kept their heads up and continued to play with high energy which led to the great comeback.”
Both teams were right back in action on a 70 degree Thursday afternoon with the Greyhounds playing host to Ripley and West Union hosting Coach Judd Johnson and his Peebles Indians. The Greyhounds get no rest as they also had a Friday game scheduled at home with a very tough Fayetteville squad.
Mark Carpenter can be reached at 937-544-2391 or on Twitter @adamscosports.
MANCHESTER 001 102 3 —7
WEST UNION 001 020 5 —8
Manchester Hitting (AB-R-H-RBI): Young 4-0-1-2, Thornburg 4-0-0-1, Conley 2-0-2-0, Brummett 3-1-1-0,
Frost 4-1-2-0, Shelton 1-0-0-0, Hensley 2-1-0-0, Applegate 2-1-0-0, DeAtley 2-2-0-0, Hoskins 3-1-0-0,
W. Union Hitting (AB-R-H-RBI): Stephenson 3-1-0-0, Shelton 2-2-0-0, Taylor 4-0-0-0, Daniel 3-1-0-0,
Holbrook 4-0-1-2, Fox 3-0-1-0, Blevins 1-0-0-0, Hawes 2-2-2-0, McCoy 4-0-2-2, Brannock 0-0-0-0, Kramer 0-1-0-0,
Hostetter 3-1-2-1, Team 29-8-8-5.
Extra-Base Hits: McCoy 2B
Manchester Pitching: Frost 6 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 11 K, 108 pitches
DeAtley (L) 2/3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 25 pitches
W. Union Pitching: Taylor 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, 92 pitches
Shelton 1 IP, 0 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 1 K, 33 pitches
Hawes (W) 1 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 18 pitches