MASON, W.Va. — After all, it was in Mason County.
Senior Mason Hicks struck out 13 over seven innings, produced three hits and drove in four RBIs — including the game-winner in the bottom of the seventh — in allowing host Wahama to claim a 5-4 victory over the Waterford baseball team Monday night in a Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division contest at J.C. Cook Field.
The White Falcons (5-1, 5-0 TVC Hocking) entered the game tied with the visiting Wildcats (5-3, 5-1) atop the TVC Hocking standings, and the performance by Hicks over seven innings ended up being a key reason that the Red and White escaped as the league’s only remaining unbeaten.
Wahama grabbed an early 1-0 advantage thanks to a Hicks single with two outs in the first as pinch-runner David Hendrick crossed home plate.
Waterford, however, caught a break in the top of the fourth as Riley Burns scored an error with two outs in the inning, allowing the guests to knot things up at one apiece.
The White Falcons countered as Philip Hoffman led the home half of the fourth off with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice by Hicks and then stole third base with only one out in the frame.
Colton Arrington executed a perfect squeeze bunt and also beat the out the throw as Hoffman scored, allowing the hosts to secure a 2-1 advantage through four complete.
The Wildcats made their big push in the fifth after producing three runs on four hits and a walk, allowing the Green and White to claim a 4-2 lead midway through five.
The score stayed that way until the bottom of the sixth as Hicks delivered a two-run homer over the left-center field wall, allowing Hoffman to score while tying the game at four.
Waterford got the lead runner on base in the top half of the seventh, but then went down in order as the hosts came to the plate.
Dalton Kearns received a leadoff walk and Ricky Kearns doubled to put runners at second and third with nobody out, then Hoffman received an intentional walk to load the bases with one away in the inning.
Hicks lined a 2-0 offering into left-center, allowing Dalton Kearns to score the game-winning run as Wahama picked up its fifth consecutive victory.
After being outhit 7-5 through five innings of play, WHS coach Tom Cullen noted that he was ready to go to the bullpen on more than one occasion late in the contest. He also, however, trusted in his senior right-hander to get the job done — and he most definitely did that down the stretch of such a pivotal game.
“The kids really pulled together and showed a lot of character tonight. We were going to pull Mason and put another pitcher in during the eighth, but the kids said not to worry about it because they were going to finish it in the seventh … and they did,” Cullen said. “Truth be told, and I know it’s early, but our kids like being on top and sitting in that driver seat. We knew what was at stake and Waterford proved to be a very tough challenge for us, but we got it done.
“And then there was the performance that Mason gave us tonight. I thought he was done on the mound after five and he proved me wrong, then it just seemed he did everything right at the plate tonight. Several people stepped up, but Mason really elevated his game tonight … and it showed.”
After surrendering the lead in the top half of the fifth, Hicks allowed only one walk while striking out four of the final seven batters he faced. Hicks also struck out at least one batter in each of his seven innings on the mound, including all three in the top of the sixth.
The White Falcons outhit the guests by a 10-7 overall margin and committed the only error in the game. Waterford stranded five runners on base, while the hosts left four on the bags.
Hicks walked three and allowed only three earned runs in the winning complete-game decision. Isaac Wagner suffered the loss after allowing one earned run, two hits and two walks in a third of an inning of relief while striking out one.
Hoffman and Hicks paced Wahama with three hits apiece, followed by Ricky Kearns, Dalton Kearns, Colton Arrington and Jared Oliver with a safety apiece. Hoffman scored a team-best two runs as well.
Riley Burns and Cameron Bosner led Waterford with two hits apiece, followed by Devyn Farley, Clay Hayes and Noah Huffman with a safety each. Farley, Burns, Hayes and Braden Bellville each drove in a run for the guests.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.