Wes-Del coach Jesse Fennell likes to view baseball by a 21-out rule. Every walk, error or hit keeps his pitcher out there longer and makes it harder for the Warriors to win.
It’s a simple philosophy, but one his team struggled to follow on Wednesday.
Wes-Del’s inability to make routine plays and close out innings left the door open for Monroe Central to swoop in and capture its first Class A sectional championship since 2009 with a 5-1 win on Wednesday.
“I’m just thrilled to death for these kids,” Monroe Central coach Don Duncan said. “A lot of people gave up on us, but these kids stepped up.”
The Golden Bears needed to after giving up a run in the first inning.
A lead-off single by the Warriors’ Devin Gill led to trouble after a failed pick-off attempt allowed him to advance to third base. Trevor Spencer brought him in on a sacrifice fly one pitch later.
Monroe Central’s Devin Nott quickly settled in after allowing the opening run and shut out Wes-Del the rest of the way. Gill’s single was one of only four hits he surrendered on the day, while striking out six and walking one.
“I thought it was probably his best outing of the year,” Duncan said. “He threw the ball well and had control the whole game.”
Control was something the Warriors’ Ryan Jones didn’t have.
He got out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, but consecutive hits and a throwing error put runners on second and third in the top of the fourth inning. The Warriors limited the damage to one run, tying the game, but Jones’ erratic location and the poor defense behind him soon lad to more scoring.
A double and error cost the Warriors another run in the next inning. The Golden Bears got runners on first and second before Jones used one of his eight strikeouts to escape again.
After walking one Monroe Central batter and hitting another, Nott hit an RBI single to end Jones’ day in the sixth inning. He finished with five walks.
Wes-Del’s Palmer Smalley came in and struck out Kaiser Phillips, but he advanced to first on the wild pitch to load the bases. Jesse Reum took advantage of the opening and plated two more runs to give Monroe Central a 5-1 lead after six innings.
“That’s the way we’ve been playing,” Duncan said. “We’ve got six, seven guys who can put the ball in play at any time. (Wednesday), I think we scored five runs with two outs. (Tuesday) we scored 10 runs with two outs. That tells you something.”
The Warriors couldn’t string hits together in the final two innings to put much pressure on Nott, who continued to cruise. His ability to command the bottom of the strike zone with both his fastball and curveball kept Wes-Del off balance throughout the game.
“We’ve seen speed the last two games and he was off-speed,” Fennell said. “I think it had us in a loop a little bit where we couldn’t stay on it. He threw breaking balls for strikes and that’s hard to beat.”