MASON, W. Va. — Already the top team in the state, the Wahama White Falcons are also eyeing to be the top team in their league.
The White Falcons, ranked number-one in the West Virginia Class A statewide baseball poll, raised their Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division record to a perfect 3-0 — following Wednesday’s 8-0 shutout win over the visiting Eastern Eagles at J.C. Cook Field.
Wahama only had four hits, but no worries with ace pitcher Philip Hoffman on the mound.
The White Falcons scored three runs in the third inning, followed by four in the fifth and one more in the sixth towards the 8-0 triumph.
Those eight markers were more than enough for the right-hander Hoffman, who crafted a complete game three-hit shutout for the victory, including a staggering 15 strikeouts.
Overall, the White Falcons — which shared the TVC-Hocking Division championship last season with Trimble — are now 7-1, with a seven-game win streak.
The Eagles — which fell to 4-4 with the loss — dropped to 3-2 in the TVC-Hocking, having also lost 2-1 in 10 innings against Waterford on Friday.
Wednesday’s tilt was already a key conference clash, and one in which Wahama — the defending Class A state champion — handled its business.
“This was a big game in the league and keeps us on a roll,” said Wahama coach Tom Cullen. “Our deal is to get better every time out. Every practice, every game, trying to improve and get better.”
Nobody was better than Hoffman, who actually struck out the Eagles for all three outs in the opening inning — and for four outs in the sixth.
Eastern also got four outs in the seventh, thanks to a second dropped third strike.
He faced no more than five Eagles in any one inning, retiring the side 1-2-3 in the third.
Hoffman faced 30 batters, walking two and hitting one along with the three basehits.
“It really helps your defense when you only have to field six or seven balls. Philip throws the ball well,” said Cullen. “I didn’t think he was as consistent tonight as he has been, but he throws the ball hard and his curve-ball came around for him at the end.”
He stranded nine Eagles altogether, including two apiece in the first, fourth and fifth frames.
“Hitting him (Hoffman) is extremely challenging for the kids,” said Eastern coach Brian Bowen. “He’s a tremendous pitcher and a great young man. He has a nice fastball and a great curve-ball and understands mentally the game of baseball and how to be a pitcher. He did a phenomenal job.”
In the first, Eastern’s Austin Coleman reached on an error and Cameron Richmond walked, but back-to-back strikeouts ended the inning.
Jesse Morris singled to center to lead off the second, as Kaleb Hill was hit by a pitch and Morris walked in the fourth.
Again, only this time with Eagles on the corners, Hoffman had back-to-back inning-ending strikeouts.
In the fifth, and facing a 3-0 deficit, Owen Arix and Richmond singled with two outs, but Hoffman’s eighth strikeout ended that last best threat.
Wahama helped Hoffman out in the third, as Richmond walked him and Ricky Kearns — sandwiched around a Colton Arrington single to left.
Kearns scored on a 4-6 fielder’s choice off the bat of Mason Hicks, as Dalton Kearns collected an infield hit — along with Arrington stealing home and Hicks scoring on a combination of a throwing error and stolen base.
“They did a great job. Offensively, they are a tough lineup and have great hitters and good speed,” said Bowen. “They can put a lot of pressure on a team and they’re extremely talented and well-coached.”
In the fifth, Hoffman helped his cause with a leadoff triple to right — followed by Hicks tripling to right on the next at-bat.
Hicks plated Hoffman, as the White Falcons then combined another hit batsman, an Eastern error, two stolen bases and back-to-back sacrifice flies for their other three runs.
“Phil (Hoffman) had actually been trying to go to right field the whole time, because they had the big shift on him. He finally got a pitch on the upper half (of the plate) and he just drove it that way. Then Mason (Hicks) ripped a pitch the same way,” said Cullen. “Those two guys carry us at the plate.”
Nyles Riggs, Jared Nutter and Jared Oliver amounted the three runs batted in, with Hicks, Dalton Kearns and Riggs scoring runs.
In the sixth — off Eastern reliever Coleman — Ricky Kearns and Hicks both walked, as Kearns stole second, advanced on a Hoffman groundout, and scored on a stolen base in which Hicks was caught in a rundown between first and second.
“We ran the bases well. We’re trying to add that to our repertoire,” said Cullen. “When they throw down to second, send somebody home. Or, get caught up (in ‘pickle’ play between bases) like Mason (Hicks) did there at the end. Steal a run that way.”
Richmond was the losing pitcher for the Eagles, going the first four-plus innings while walking three and hitting two with three strikeouts.
Eastern committed four errors, as six of Wahama’s eight runs were earned.
Both clubs were off on Thursday, but return to action today (Friday, April 8) in TVC-Hocking tilts.
Wahama travels to Belpre, while Eastern hosts Federal Hocking.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106