West Union falls to Whiteoak 8-4 in SHAC showdown –
By Mark Carpenter –
Some of the recent weather has resembled what you might see around Christmas, and on Wednesday afternoon the West Union Dragons had a little too much of the spirit of giving. Traveling to Whiteoak for a showdown of two undefeated teams, the Dragons were just the opposite of what they had been in winning their first six games. Five West Union errors led to five unearned runs for the host Wildcats and it was the home team that remained unbeaten as they handed the visiting Dragons a disappointing 8-4 defeat.
With the win, Whiteoak improved to 12-0 and remained unbeaten in the small school division of the Southern Hills Athletic Conference, while West Union dropped to 6-1 overall and in the SHAC, falling into a first-place tie with Lynchburg, a team they were scheduled to play on Thursday.
West Union took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning, but a two-out error opened the floodgates and allowed the Wildcats to put up four unearned runs and the Dragons never recovered. West Union pitcher Brandan Cornell likely deserved a better fate, giving up just the three earned runs, against a Whiteoak offense that puts the ball in play, is aggressive on the base paths, and keeps the pressure on the defense.
“We didn’t play as well defensively as we have in the past,” said West Union head coach Joe Kramer after the loss. “Give credit to Whiteoak, they put the ball in play and it’s our job to catch it.”
The Wildcats struck first on Wednesday, getting an unearned tally in the bottom of the first inning. Cornell had some early control issues, hitting a batter and walking a pair to load the bases with one out, but got just what he needed when he faced Chase Carraher, a one-hopper back to the mound. Cornell fired home for the first out of a potential inning-ending double play, but catcher Dylan Groom’s throw to first plunked Carraher in the helmet, allowing the game’s first run to score.
The West Union bats were somewhat baffled all day by the deliveries of Whiteoak starter an eventual winner Chase Butler. Butler’s mix of off speed pitches kept the Dragon hitters off balance, though the West Union bats put the ball in play, but often right at a Whiteoak defender.
“Pitching isn’t just throwing strikes, that’s for batting practice,” said Coach Kramer. “Pitching is about disrupting timing and getting hitters to swing at stuff they shouldn’t swing at, or when they do swing at it, they don’t hit it very well. He was just throwing a slow change up and we were out in front. We swung the bats well today, but they just played better defense today than we did.”
The Dragons got to Butler for two runs and the lead in the top of the third. Kenny Stephenson led off with a walk and one out later came home on a double down the right field line by Brycen Staten. After Alex Hirsch lined out to left for the second out, a Ryan Rothwell base hit drove home Staten and put West Union up 2-1.
Good teams respond, and the Wildcats did just that, taking the lead back in their half of the third on a two-run double to left by Caleb West and the score remained 3-2 Whiteoak until the Dragons came to bat in the top of the fifth. Brandon Blevins singled to lead off the frame but was erased when a sacrifice bunt attempt by Staten was popped up into a double play. Hirsch and Rothwell followed with base hits and both came around to score when Cornell smashed a long two-bagger to left, giving the Dragons a 4-3 advantage, but again the Cats had a big answer.
The bottom of the fifth inning was just plain ugly for the West Union defense, and the home team took full advantage. With two outs and a runner at second, West hit a ground ball to short and Blevins’ throw to first was high, allowing the runner to come all the way round and score. Carraher followed with a base hit to center that scored West and gave the Cats a 5-4 lead. Mason Lehr then smashed a double down the left field line, moving Carraher to third and he raced home when Blevins attempted to no avail to throw behind the runner at second. The next hitter was Evan Brill and his ground ball to second was misplayed by Michael Carson allowing the final run of the inning to score and give the home team a three-run advantage.
The Dragons went scoreless in the top of the sixth and Whiteoak tacked on one more in their half of the frame to lead 8-4. In the top of the seventh, Staten walked to lead off the inning, but Hirsch flied to right, Rothwell grounded out to first, and Cornell lined out to left to end the game, the Dragons’ first loss of the 2018 season.
“We’ll be better and next time out hopefully we will play better defense,” said Kramer.
Both teams had seven hits on the day, with West Union’s Rothwell and Whiteoak’s Ryan Roberts the only players with more than one. Butler went the distance for the win, allowing four earned runs and ironically, not striking out a single West Union hitter. Cornell threw the seventh consecutive complete game for the Dragons, pinned with the loss, allowing the seven hits and striking out eight.
The Dragons had little time to stew over their first loss as they were slated to come right back on Thursday and hit the road to Lynchburg for a very important big school division contest in the SHAC. On Friday, the Dragons were scheduled to host a struggling Ripley team in SHAC play, and the were set to conclude a busy week with a 10 a.m. home doubleheader on Saturday with the Northwest Mohawks.
W. Union Hitting (AB-R-H-RBI): Blevins 3-0-1-0, Carson 3-0-1-0, Cornell 4-0-1-2, Fenton 3-0-0-0, D. Grooms 3-0-0-0, Hirsch 4-1-1-0, Rothwell 4-1-2-1, Staten 2-1-1-1, Stephenson 1-1-0-0, Team 27-4-7-4.
Extra-Base Hits: Cornell 2B, Staten 2B
Whiteoak Hitting (AB-R-H-RBI): Hamilton 3-1-0-0, Roberts 2-2-2-0, Yeager 3-1-0-1, West 3-1-1-2, Carraher 3-1-1-2, Lehr 4-0-1-1, Brill 3-0-1-0, Nace 2-0-0-0, Butler 3-1-1-0, Team 27-8-7-6.
Extra-Base Hits: Roberts 2B, West 2B, Lehr 2B, Brill 2B
W. Union Pitching:
Cornell (L) 6 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 112 pitches
Butler (W) 7 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 84 pitches