Story & Photos
By Carl Holcomb
East Hardy commandeered a 7-0 lead and held off a late rally by the tenth ranked Yellow Jackets for an 8-4 victory at George Hott Field in the second round of the Class A Region II Section 2 Baseball Tournament on Tuesday to gain the advantage in the double elimination format and solidified the position in the driver’s seat with a 9-4 win over fifth ranked Pendleton County to take one step closer to the Region II championship series.
“The keys were we came out focused and ready to play. They wanted to win and it showed,” East Hardy coach Eric Heflin stated.
The Cougars opened the sectional tournament with a 16-4 victory over Union which included home runs by Corey McDonald and Brett Tharp.
East Hardy got the scoring started against Moorefield in the first inning as Tharp reached on an error and McDonald singled to right field off
Yellow Jackets pitcher Holden Sions to put runners on the corners for Austin Whetzel hitting directly to shortstop Brent Moran and safely plating Tharp with no play to be made while reaching first base successfully, 1-0.
Sions got Moorefield out of the jam with a strikeout to Clay Skovron and induced a groundout from Austin Smith.
[private] East Hardy pitcher Brett Tharp issued a pair of strikeouts to begin the bottom of the first inning against Moorefield’s Garett Haggerty and Sloan Williams, then Rion Landes flew out.
Both teams went down in order in the second inning as Sions and Tharp each notched a strikeout and forced groundouts.
The Cougars struck again in the third inning with two runs coming across the plate.
Tharp singled to left field with one out, then McDonald grounded to Landes at second base and beat the throw to first base for a single.
Whetzel followed with an RBI double in the gap at left center field, then Skovron hit an RBI groundout to extend the lead to 3-nil and another groundout ended the side.
The Yellow Jackets failed to get a runner aboard on two groundouts and a strikeout.
East Hardy scored four runs in the fourth inning with a two-out rally.
Jeffrey Mills and Phillip Mullin singled with two outs, then Tharp advanced to first base on a dropped third strike and Mullin scored on the sequence.
McDonald ripped a two-run producing double to give the Cougars a 6-0 advantage.
Whetzel connected again for an RBI single to right field making it 7-nil, then Haggerty was sent to the mound and induced a groundout.
Landes hit a pop-up and the Cougars converged on the ball, but it landed and the throw to first base was off the mark as a run scored, 7-1.
“They’re resilient, just need a couple more hits,” Moorefield Coach Wade Armentrout noted.
“We are going to play tomorrow regardless of whether we win or lose this one. We just needed a couple more hits early in the game, you don’t want to get behind against a good team like that. You have to be able to match runs with them.”
Moorefield’s Blake Conrad singled with two outs, then Blake Ways drew a walk to load the bases and the last out came on a passed ball with the gamble sending Landes home didn’t pay off as Mills threw to Tharp in time.
East Hardy’s Ashton Mathias was given a walk with one out in the fifth inning, then Aden Funkhouser hit into a fielder’s choice.
The Yellow Jackets attempted to make a pickoff throw and it went awry and as Funkhouser was sliding into third base with the ball on its way, Moorefield third baseman tumbled over him hitting the dirt and was awarded a run due to interference, 8-1.
After that crazy series of events, Mullin flew out to end the side.
Sions was hit by a pitch to give the Yellow Jackets a base runner, then Tharp countered with a strikeout to Seth Hoyt and Jake Ours popped out.
Haggerty drew a full-count walk, but both runners were stranded on a flyout by Williams.
In the sixth inning, Mills and McDonald sandwiched groundouts to Watts around a strikeout to Tharp by Haggerty.
McDonald chased a fly ball coming from center field over to left field making the catch off a hit by Landes and safely hurdled teammate Funkhouser as momentum carried him.
Tharp got Westly Martinez looking at a third strike, then hit Conrad with a pitch.
Watts singled into left field, but the Yellow Jackets didn’t score as Chase Anderson grounded out.
Skovron singled up the middle with one out in the top of the seventh inning, but was caught stealing and Haggerty struck out Smith to send Moorefield back to the plate.
Hoyt grounded out to Mathias at shortstop, then Ours was hit by a pitch.
Haggerty singled into left field and Williams was issued a walk as the Yellow Jackets threatened with the bases loaded.
McDonald came in as the closer for the Cougars and allowed a run with a walk to Landes.
Martinez hit into a fielder’s choice scoring Haggerty with the out coming at second base and an error at first base kept the Yellow Jackets in business as the throw home wasn’t in time with the deficit cut to 8-4.
East Hardy closed the game catching a fly ball for the 8-4 victory.
The Yellow Jackets eliminated Tucker County 11-1 on Wednesday to setup another elimination game with Paw Paw, but the game was rained out the rest of the week and rescheduled for this past Monday.
Meanwhile, East Hardy smacked three home runs in then 9-4 win over the Wildcats on the same night.
Skovron hit a two-run dinger in the second inning, Whetzel garnered a three-run blast in the third inning and Tharp connected for a solo home run in the seventh inning against Pendleton County.
Pendleton County faces the winner of the Moorefield and Paw Paw game, then the winner that next contest advances to the section championship against East Hardy (3-0) which should be tonight weather permitting with the opponent needing two wins to advance.
The Wildcats are seeded first in this section tournament with Moorefield in second and East Hardy in third place.