ASHTON, W.Va. — It started as a battle between Mason County programs.
By the end of Tuesday night, it was more of a contest against both time and Mother Nature.
The Wahama baseball team scored seven runs in each of its first two innings at the plate, then hurried to beat lightning and potential downpours in a 15-1 mercy-rule victory over Hannan in a Class A Regio4, Section 3 tournament contest at the Craigo Athletic Complex on the campus of Hannan High School.
The White Falcons (16-8) — who served as the home team on the scoreboard — started its 2015 Class A state title defense on a positive note after sending 11 batters to the plate in both the first and second frames.
WHS never trailed as Philip Hoffman delivered a sacrifice fly to center for the first out of the bottom of the first, with Ricky Kearns scoring the eventual game-winning run for a 1-0 advantage.
Jared Nutter scored on a passed ball for a 2-0 cushion, then Tyler Grimm hammered a two-run shot to left field that gave the White Falcons a 4-0 cushion with one out. Wahama plated three more runs with two outs, giving the hosts a seven-run edge after one complete.
The Wildcats (4-9-1) followed with their lone run of the night as Junior Morehart reached on a fielder’s choice and later scored on a James Bledsoe ground out, cutting the deficit down to 7-1.
Wahama, however, retaliated with five runs before committing an out in its half of the second, then tacked on two more scores with two outs in the frame while securing a 14-1 cushion through two complete.
The Red and White picked up a free run in the third as a bases loaded walk brought Tyler Grimm home for a 15-1 cushion.
The skies started to darken headed into the fourth, with both rain and lightning forecasted before the start of the game. Hannan sent the minimal three batters to the plate in the top half of the frame, then WHS countered by bunting three times for a quick trip through the batting order.
The Wildcats produced their only hit of the night to start the fifth as Bledsoe singled, but he was thrown out at second shortly afterwards for the first out. Grimm followed by recording back-to-back strikeouts to wrap up the mercy-rule outcome.
Wahama — which had scored four or more runs in only three of its previous eight games — snapped a two-game losing skid with the triumph. The White Falcons had also dropped six of their last eight contests overall.
After reaching double-digit runs for the first time in May, Wahama coach Tom Cullen seemed to let out a small sigh of relief after seeing his offense suddenly come to life. He’s also hoping for more of the same from here on out.
“We’ve been needing a night like tonight because we’ve really been struggling to hit the ball of late,” Cullen said. “The whole group came together and hit the ball hard tonight, so that was encouraging. We have our big arms coming against Calhoun County, so hopefully we can continue to hit the ball hard and get those guys some run support in the next few days.”
WHS will face Calhoun County in a best-of-three series starting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Hannan High School.
On the other side of things, Hannan had its season come to an end after suffering its second straight loss in the Region 4, Section 3 tournament. The Wildcats lost a 5-4 decision to Calhoun County on Monday night following a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh.
Second-year HHS coach Tad Greathouse was disappointed for his seniors and to have the season come to an end, but he also noted that the program continues to make strides — particularly with a young nucleus of talent expected back.
“I do want to say congratulations to Wahama and wish them all the best of luck, but I am also extremely proud of my kids as well,” Greathouse said. “We lost by a run in the opener and we came up with a run against the defending state champs, and I know they left everything that they had out on that field in both games. Honestly, they always played hard and with effort — and that’s what I’m most proud of.
“It’s going to be tough trying to replace what those seniors have meant to the program over the last few years, but we are a relatively young team that has a lot of room for improvement next year if we stick to it. We want to continue building the program so that we can compete.”
It was the final high school game for Cole Poore and Isaiah Burgess in the Blue and Gold.
Wahama outhit the Wildcats by a 10-1 overall margin and committed one of the three errors in the contest. The White Falcons stranded five runners on base, while HHS left only one on the bags.
Jared Oliver was the winning pitcher of record after allowing one earned run, no hits and two walks over three innings of work while striking out one. Grimm also fanned two and allowed one hit in two innings of relief for Wahama.
The Wildcats used four different pitchers in the contest, with Corey Hudnall taking the loss after allowing 10 runs in an inning-plus of work.
Hoffman, Ricky Kearns and Colton Arrington had two hits apiece for the hosts, while Nutter, Grimm, Dalton Kearns and Nyles Riggs added a safety each in the triumph.
Hoffman, Grimm and both Kearns knocked in two RBIs apiece, with Nutter and Ryan Thomas also producing a RBI each.
Nutter, Grimm, Arrington, Dalton Kearns and Mason Hicks all scored twice in the victory, while Hoffman, Riggs, Oliver, Ricky Kearns and Anthony Ortiz each crossed home plate once.
Bledsoe had the lone hit and RBI for Hannan.
Wahama has now won eight consecutive postseason baseball contests dating back to last spring’s state title run.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.
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