CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — Both teams had were aiming for a second straight trip to regionals, unfortunately for the Eagles only one team could move on and it was Waterford that claimed the prize.
The Eastern baseball team had its 2017 campaign come to an end on Wednesday night at Paint Stadium, as the third-seeded Eagles dropped a 9-3 decision to the No. 1 seed Wildcats.
The Wildcats (22-5) — which swept EHS in the regular season, winning 7-1 on April 10, in Tuppers Plains, and 10-2 on April 28, in Waterford — scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the first inning, when Isaac Huffman scored on a two-out wild pitch.
In the third inning Waterford extended its lead to 5-0, scoring four runs on the strength of three hits and two EHS errors.
The Eagles (15-8) were retired in order through the first three frames, but broke through with no outs in the top of the fourth. Austin Coleman led off the inning with a single and then scored on a double by John Little. Little then scored on a triple by Kaleb Hill, who crossed home on a Ethen Richmond groundout.
“The kids took a better mental approach,” Eagles head coach Brian Bowen said of what changed in the fourth inning for EHS. “That’s the way I expected they could hit the ball the whole game. Mentally, we weren’t right the first few innings.”
Eastern left a runner on base in the fourth and the Eagles didn’t advanced into scoring position for the remainder of the game.
The WHS lead remained at 5-3 until the sixth inning, when the Wildcats struck for four runs on three hits and two walks.
“Just too many walks and errors against a good team,” Bowen said. “They’ll hurt you, you can’t give them extra chances. Waterford was good and they capitalized on that stuff.”
Both pitchers tossed complete games with Waterford’s Braden Bellville earning the victory and Richmond taking the loss for the Eagles. Bellville struck out six batters, walked one, and allowed three runs and four hits. Richmond struck out three, walked six and allowed nine runs and nine hits.
Hill led the Eagles at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a triple, a run scored and a run batted in. Little and Coleman were both 1-for-3, with Little doubling once, scoring once and driving in one run, and Coleman adding a run scored. Richmond had one RBI for EHS.
Isaac Huffman led the Wildcats, going 3-for-4 with three runs scored.
Waterford committed one error, while Eastern had four defensive miscues. The Wildcats left seven runners on base, while EHS stranded just one.
The Eagles must now say farewell to their lone senior, John Little, who bats second batter in the lineup and starts at shortstop for the Green, White and Gold.
“John’s been great,” Bowen said. “He’s been a great asset physically, on the field he performs great. He was solid last year at shortstop, this year he’s been a good pitcher for us and a good leader to the kids. He’s helped prepare the kids for next season and we’re going to miss him in several aspects.”
With only losing one player to graduation, the Eagles — who finished tied for second in the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division this season — will be looking for another successful campaign next spring.
“We’re definitely excited with the kids that are coming back,” Bowen said. “We’re excited to see what kind of work they’re willing to put in between now and next season.”
Waterford — the TVC Hocking champ — advances to May 25 regional semifinal at Beavers Field, in Lancaster, and will face South Webster, which defeated Notre Dame by a 7-2 count in the second district final at Paint Stadium on Wednesday.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.