ASHTON, W.Va. — Another frustrating postseason, but the Wildcats do have their title.
The Hannan baseball team had a roller-coaster season come to a bitter end on Thursday night following a 12-9 setback to visiting Van in a Class A Region 4, Section 2 loser’s bracket contest at the Craigo Athletic Complex in Mason County.
The host Wildcats (4-11) — a five seed — started the season with seven consecutive losses, then capped a four-game winning streak by claiming the 2017 Tolsia Wooden Bat tournament championship before dropping their final two decisions of the regular season.
HHS lost a 3-2 heartbreaker to Sherman after leading by two runs in the opening round of the tournament, but the Blue and White were fortunate to draw a home game as a higher seed against the sixth-seeded Bulldogs (6-14).
The Wildcats once again scored first as Junior Morehart doubled in Dalton Coleman for a 1-0 advantage through an inning of play, but VHS countered by sending 10 batters to the plate in the top half of the second. That offensive eruption resulted in six runs on four walks and three timely hits — giving the Blue and Gold a 6-1 cushion.
Hannan, however, battled right back in its half of the second with five runs to knot things up. Morehart drove in both Coleman and Nick Hughes with a two-out double to center, then Sawyer Casto knocked in Morehart, Corey Hudnall and Christian Holland with a double to left-center — tying the contest up again at six.
The score remained that way until the top of the fifth as Van’s Kenny Gibson dropped a one-out, bases-loaded suicide squeeze bunt down the third base line, which led to an error and everyone being safe while taking a 7-6 edge.
Grant Brady followed with a bases-clearing double to right-center, giving the Bulldogs a 10-6 advantage.
Sid Ross reached on a walk and advanced to second on a single by Hughes, then a two-out error in right field allowed James Bledsoe to reach safely as Ross came around to score for a 10-7 deficit after five full frames.
Caleb Green singled home Puckett in the top of the sixth, but the hosts answered with two runs in their half of the frame as Casto received a bases-loaded walk that plated Hudnall and Morehart came in on a Ross single — making it an 11-9 contest headed into the seventh.
Van came away with an insurance run in its final at-bat as a single and an error moved Cole Price to third with one away, then Alex Gibson laid a safety squeeze down the first base line that allowed Price to score the final run of the night.
It was the final game for seniors Corey Hudnall, Sid Ross, James Bledsoe and Nick Hughes in the Blue and White, which was something that was very difficult for third-year HHS coach Tad Greathouse to discuss afterwards.
Then again, as he did note, the future of the program looks a lot brighter because of that quartet.
“It’s emotional to see it end for this group, both the seniors and the underclassmen. This is one of the best groups of kids that I have ever had and I really do feel blessed to have coached them and watched them progress over the years. I really couldn’t have asked for more out of any of them,” Greathouse said. “The four seniors that are leaving have helped us get the program to where we now have something that no other Hannan team has here in at least a decade … a title. They’ve helped the younger kids understand what it takes to be successful at this level, so they have nothing to hang their heads about. They’ve been special … all of them.”
The Bulldogs outhit HHS by an 11-8 overall margin and also committed only one of the five errors in the contest. Both teams stranded 10 runners apiece on the bags.
Brady Grant was the winning pitcher of record after allowing two runs, four hits and six walks over three-plus innings of relief work. Morehart took the loss after surrendering six runs, eight hits and one walk over five innings of relief work while fanning seven.
Hudnall and Morehart led the Wildcats with two hits apiece, followed by Casto, Ross, Hughes and Bledsoe with a safety each. Hughes and Morehart each knocked in three RBIs, with Coleman, Hudnall and Morehart also scoring twice apiece in the setback.
Cole Price led VHS with three hits and Caleb Green added two safeties. Gibson, Grant, Puckett, Kory Williams, Caleb Price and Ethan Acord also had a hit each in the triumph. Green and Brady Grant each drove in three runs as well.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.