MASON, W.Va. — This Mr. Washington went to town on the White Falcons.
Sophomore starter Lenny Washington didn’t allow a hit for six innings, drove in four RBIs and added a three-run homer in the top of the seventh to push visiting Huntington Saint Joseph on to a convincing 9-2 decision over the Wahama baseball team on Monday night in the Class A Region IV tournament opener held at Claflin Stadium in Mason County.
The Irish (18-10-1) — winners of the Section 2 bracket of Region IV — were simply dominant as the Blue and Gold stymied the White Falcon offense while gradually extending an early cushion.
HSJHS plated a pair of scores in the top half of the first, with Washington ultimately starting the two-out rally with a single to center. Hunter Eplin followed with a single that put runners at first and second, then Connor Joseph singled in Washington with the eventual game-winner for a 1-0 edge.
Eplin later scored from third on an error that allowed Bronson Barker to reach safely for a 2-0 advantage.
The host White Falcons (24-7) had their first 10 batters go down in order, and the score remained a two-run affair until the top of the fourth as the Irish plated four scores for a commanding 6-0 lead.
Corey Sweeney doubled in Luke Stollings with one away in the fourth for a three-run edge, then an error allowed Washington to reach safely as both Noah Beter and Sweeney came home for a 5-0 cushion. Washington eventually came around to score on an error.
Jonathon Frye earned a one-out walk in the bottom half of the fourth to end the perfect game bid, then Ethyn Barnitz was hit by a pitch to leadoff the fifth before being stranded at second base. Frye and Barnitz were also the only baserunners that the Red and White had through six full frames of play.
Both Beter and Sweeney led off the top of the seventh by getting on base, then Washington hammered a 1-1 offering down the left field line. The ball was never higher than 25 feet off the ground and soared just inside the foul pole while crossing over the fence, making it a 9-0 contest.
The hosts finally found some offensive rhythm in the home half of the seventh as Frye drew a leadoff walk and eventually scored on a double from Tanner Smith. Smith also came around to score on a two-out single from Tyler Bumgarner that wrapped up the seven-run outcome.
Wahama trails 1-0 in the best-of-three series and looks to avoid having its season ended on Tuesday night when the Red and White travel to HSJHS for a 5 p.m. start time in Game 2.
A Wahama win would force a winner-take-all Game 3 back at Claflin Stadium on Wednesday.
Afterwards, second-year WHS coach Billy Zuspan admitted that Washington was as dominating as any hurler that the White Falcons had faced this year.
However, Zuspan was pleased that his troops were able to at least gain some momentum late with those two scores … and he also noted that Washington won’t be available to work on the mound for the next two days.
“When you face a high quality pitcher like that, you cannot afford to make a lot of mistakes. We made some errors early that gave them some extra opportunities and we struggled at the plate for six innings,” Zuspan said. “We’re obviously in a hole now, but I do believe that this team is capable of rebounding tomorrow and forcing a Game 3 back here at Claflin Stadium. We play our best baseball when our backs are against the wall and we’ve been in this situation before. I believe in this team and we believe in one another, so the next test is to go win at Huntington and bring one more game back here.
“I was glad that we kept fighting and managed to score a couple of runs there late. It does give us a little bit of momentum moving forward, but we cannot afford for our offense to wait until the later innings to get going. We have to have a win tomorrow and we need to be ready to go from the start.”
St. Joe outhit the hosts by a sizable 10-2 overall margin, with Wahama committing all four errors in the contest. The Irish stranded 11 runners on base, while the White Falcons left only two on the bags.
Washington was the winning pitcher of record after allowing two earned runs, two hits and two walks over seven innings while striking out 10 on 88 pitches. Washington retired the side in the first three frames and also did the same in the bottom of the sixth.
The hosts used five different pitchers in the setback, with starter Antonio Serevicz going the longest after surrendering two runs (one earned), four hits and two walks over 2.1 frames while fanning four in the setback.
Smith and Bumgarner had a hit and drove in a run apiece for the White Falcons.
Washington led the Irish with three hits and four RBIs, while Joseph followed with two hits. Sweeney, Eplin, Barker, Stollings and Max Adkins also had a safety apiece for the guests.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.