ASHTON, W.Va. — This eight was enough … at least for now.
The Wahama baseball team earned its eighth consecutive trip to regionals Wednesday night following a doubleheader sweep of Calhoun County in a Class A Region 4, Section 3 tournament being held at the Craigo Athletic Complex on the campus of Hannan High School in Mason County.
The defending Class A state champion White Falcons (18-8) averaged eight hits between the two contests, which ultimately led to victories of 11-1 in Game 1 and 6-0 in the night cap.
The hosts actually trailed in the opener as the Red Devils (6-13) took a 1-0 lead after a half-inning of play, but WHS countered by scoring 17 consecutive runs over the next dozen innings at the plate — allowing the White Falcons to once again advance to the next level of the postseason.
Wahama has now won 10 consecutive postseason baseball contests, dating back to last year’s postseason run. WHS coach Tom Cullen acknowledged that there were some positive signs and some to things to work on, but overall he was pleased that his troops were able to get one step closer to the ultimate goal.
“If we want to get where we hope to get, then we had to get out of sectionals first … and now we’ve done that,” Cullen said. “It wasn’t as smooth, hitting-wise, in that second one, but we applied pressure and hit the ball hard in both games. We’ve had some good at-bats and some good defense this week, which helped us get past this stage of the tournament. Hopefully we’ll have some more of that next week at regionals.”
The White Falcons outhit CCHS by a 7-3 overall margin in the opening contest, with the Red Devils claiming an early 1-0 advantage after Ethan Miller singled to leadoff the game and later scored on an error.
Wahama, however, answered with five runs in its half of the first, which included three hits, two walks and an error. Tyler Grimm also hit a two-run homer during that span, which turned a 2-1 lead into a three-run advantage.
The White Falcons scored an unearned run in each of the second and third frames despite going hitless, then the hosts started the fourth with consecutive hits from Ricky Kearns, Jared Nutter and Philip Hoffman — leading to a 9-1 edge. Hoffman later scored on a ground out by Mason Hicks for a 10-1 advantage through four.
Dalton Kearns singled to start the bottom of the fifth and advanced all the way to third on an error, then later scored on a passed ball to wrap up the mercy-rule outcome.
Wahama committed only one of the four errors in the contest and both teams stranded four runners on base.
Hicks was the winning pitcher of record after allowing just three hits and four walks over five innings while striking out nine. CCHS starter Dustin Holcomb suffered the loss after surrendering seven runs, three hits and five walks over three frames while fanning one.
Hoffman led WHS with two hits, followed by Nutter, Grimm, Jared Oliver and both Kearns with a safety apiece. Hoffman, Hicks and Grimm each drove in two RBIs, while Nutter, Oliver and Ricky Kearns scored two times apiece.
Miller led the Red Devils in Game 1 with two hits and a run scored. Holcomb had the other safety in the setback.
The night cap was all about WHS starter Philip Hoffman, who was one out away from tossing a no-hitter until Alan Metheney lined a double into the right-center field gap with two outs in the seventh.
Hoffman followed by recording the final out with his 18th strikeout of the evening, tossing 98 pitches overall in the complete-game shutout. Hoffman also walked three batters, including the first two of the game before retiring the next 20 Red Devils his faced.
Calhoun County hung around through two scoreless innings, but the White Falcons took a permanent lead as Tyler Bumgarner scored on a two-out single by Hoffman for a 1-0 edge through three complete.
WHS benefited from five Calhoun County errors over the next three innings, which included a pair of miscues in the fifth that resulted in three runs — turning a small 2-0 lead into a comfortable 5-0 cushion. Two more CCHS errors turned into another run in the sixth, wrapping up the six-run outcome.
The White Falcons outhit the guests by a 9-1 overall margin and committed none of the five errors in the contest. Both teams also stranded four runners apiece on base.
Soney Wilson took the tough-luck loss in Game 2 after allowing six runs (two earned), nine hits and two walks over six innings while striking out four.
Oliver led the hosts with three hits, followed by Hoffman and Nutter with two safeties apiece. Grimm and Colton Arrington also had a hit each in the triumph. Oliver and Bumgarner also scored twice apiece for the White Falcons.
Wahama now awaits the winner of the Buffalo/Huntington St. Joe/Charleston Catholic sectional, but that regional semifinal baseball contest will be played on Monday, May 23, at J.C. Cook Field in Mason.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.