MASON, W.Va. — The rubber match, and more importantly the spot in the Class A, Region 4 final belongs to the White Falcons.
The Wahama baseball team — which split a pair of regular season tilts with nemesis Charleston Catholic — took a 2-0 victory over the Irish in Monday night’s Class A, Region 4 semifinal at J.C. Cook Field, in Mason County.
Both pitchers were perfect through the first two frames, but with two outs in the top of the third, Irish (19-15) junior Luke McKown broke through with a single for the game’s first hit. McKown stole second base, but Wahama (19-10) junior Philip Hoffman struck out his seventh batter of the night to end the inning and strand McKown in scoring position.
The White Falcons also had two outs in the third frame when they got their first baserunner, as senior Ricky Kearns singled. Ricky Kearns then stole second base and was doubled home by sophomore Colton Arrington, giving the hosts a 1-0 lead. Arrington was stranded on second base, however, as a 6-to-3 ground-out ended the frame.
“Ricky (Kearns) has been our leadoff hitter, but he’s been struggling so we moved him down to take some pressure off of him,” 12th-year Wahama head coach Tom Cullen said. “He got on, had a big stolen base to get into scoring position, and Colton (Arrington) did his job.”
Charleston Catholic had a golden opportunity to tie the game in the top of the fourth, as Michael Martin reached on a fielding error and advance to second on a throwing error. Michael Martin moved to third base with on a sacrifice bunt, but a strikeout and a line-out to shortstop ended the inning.
Hoffman singled to lead off the Wahama fourth inning, and Tyler Grimm laid down a bunt to move him up a base. The Irish throw to first base sailed into right field, however, allowing Hoffman to score and Grimm to advance to second base.
After a single by Mason Hicks, Jared Oliver drew a base on balls to load the bags with no outs. A ground-ball back to the pitcher allowed CCHS to get the force out at home, preventing another WHS run to score, but the White Falcons still had the bases loaded with one out in the frame. However, all three Wahama runners were stranded on base, as a strikeout and a ground-out to shortstop ended the frame.
“We missed an opportunity there in the fourth inning when we had the bases loaded with no outs,” Cullen said. ” We could have gotten another run there, but they pitched out of it and did a good job.”
Trailing 2-0, Charleston Catholic got a leadoff double by Dominic Martin in the top of the fifth inning, and he advanced to third on a sac-bunt. The Irish attempted to push their first run across with another sac-bunt, but Hoffman fielded the ball and threw out Dominic Martin at the plate for the second out of the inning.
Back-to-back Irish batters drew walks to load the bases, but a ground-out to shortstop stranded three runners and kept the guests scoreless.
Wahama had one base runner in each the fifth and sixth innings, but the White Falcons failed to add any insurance to their two-run lead.
Charleston Catholic — which was retired in order in the top of the sixth — put a runner in scoring position with one out in the seventh, as Alex Belcher drew a walk and moved to second on a passed ball. However, a strikeout followed by a fly-out to right field ended the Irish’s chances and sealed Wahama’s 2-0 victory.
“It feels great,” Cullen said. “The kids put together a complete game, they didn’t hit the ball great, but (Charleston Catholic’s) kid did a great job pitching. It was just two good ball clubs battling to the end. A lot of times the little things have hurt us, but tonight we got them done.”
Hoffman was the winning pitcher of record for the Red and White, allowing two hits and three walks, while striking out 10 in a complete game shutout.
“Philip (Hoffman) was just lights out, he was dominating” Cullen said. “When he throws like that and we play a little bit of defense behind him, we’re a hard out.”
Dominic Marsico suffered the pitching loss for CCHS, allowing one run, two earned, on five hits and two walks, while striking out two batters in a complete game effort. Eleven of the 18 outs recorded by the Charleston Catholic defense were via ground-out, including the first seven outs of the night.
Arrington was 1-for-3 with a double and one RBI to lead the WHS offense, while Ricky Kearns was 1-for-2 with one run scored and one stolen base. Hoffman was 1-for-3 with a run scored, Hicks was 1-for-3 with a stolen base, while Oliver singled once in two at-bats.
Dominic Martin was 1-for-3 with a double to lead CCHS at the plate, while McKown was 1-for-2 with a stolen base.
For the game, Wahama had two errors and five runners left on base, while Charleston Catholic had one error and six runners stranded.
The White Falcons improve to 2-1 against the Irish this spring, as both teams won by a 4-1 count on the other’s home field, in the regular season. Prior to last season when the Red and White defeated CCHS by a 6-4 count in the regional semifinal at Triana Field, Charleston Catholic had eliminated Wahama in four of the previous six postseasons.
Wahama — which snapped a two-game losing skid with the win — will host Gilmer County in the Class A, Region 4 final on Wednesday at 6 p.m. The White Falcons will be playing for their seventh regional championship against the 18-16 Titans, who defeated Williamstown by a 5-2 count in Monday’s other Class A, Region 4 semifinal.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.