YORKTOWN – In the early going Wednesday afternoon at Yorktown’s Tiger Field, one couldn’t be surprised if a few collars felt a bit tight in the home stands.
After all, it was the opener of baseball sectionals, where each game means the season, and the fans had just watched their Tigers fall behind after managing no hits in three innings against the funky, left-handed delivery of Hamilton Heights pitcher Nathan Watson. But while someone outside the fence might have slipped in the finger to loosen his or her neck line, in the Tigers’ dugout, there was limitless faith.
Class 3A No. 8 Yorktown rallied, gave up the lead and rallied again before putting away the Huskies 5-2 to earn a win in its sectional opener. The hosts advanced to a Saturday meeting with Blackford as they aim for a second sectional crown in a row.
And even when things were slow, they knew the pieces would eventually come through.
“From games past this year, I think we’re confident that eventually we’re going to start squaring the balls up and they’re going to fall through,” said shortstop/closer Clay Dungan, who had a triple and scored the first Yorktown run.
The Tigers (22-4) fully snapped to attention in the fifth. They’d gone down 1-0, up 2-1 and allowed the Huskies (9-15) to tie things in the top of the inning after Max Wahl hit a triple and scored on a passed ball.
Yorktown found itself with a runner on second (bunted over) and two outs, the last a great defensive play in right field. But a trio of hits from Blake Upchurch (single), Dungan (infield single when no one covered first) and Nathan Phillips (deep double) pushed the Tigers ahead for good.
Hamilton Heights coach Rick Hawley said in his mind, it all came down to that inning.
“We were two-thirds of the way through,” Hawley said. “Then with two outs, they just put the hits together. We miscovered a play or so that added to that. Really it was just the thing of them getting the hits with two outs in the fifth inning. That’s the difference.”
But despite that, one could get a sense from the early texture of the game Yorktown’s position was better than the numbers showed. Watson only faced 10 batters in the first three innings, but he was getting away with deep or hard-hit outs after falling behind in the count. Meanwhile, Yorktown’s Cole Barr (5-0) was throwing with relentless pace, getting ahead of hitters, but a few low liners or grounders found spots where the defense wasn’t.
“I just like to be quick,” said Barr, who contributed to the 1 hour, 33-minute game time. “I don’t like to take my time. I just throw first-pitch strikes, I just get after it.”
Watson got pulled after four innings and 62 pitches, and his replacement, John Fisher, allowed four hits in just nine pitches. Barr meanwhile matched a season-high with six innings on an economical 81 pitches, walking one and striking out five.
His Tigers are aiming for one of the more decorated seasons in program history after already winning county and conference titles. Tuesday only served as a beginning, and while the first few innings hardly forecast glory, there was faith the little things would carry the Tigers through.
“We’re going to hang our hat, at Yorktown, on pitchers throwing strikes and defensive players making the fundamental, basic, routine plays,” Yorktown coach Mike Larrabee said. “We didn’t have any errors (Wednesday), and Cole threw strikes. So when we win two of the three phases, we feel like we’re in really good shape.”
Burris advanced to the Lapel Sectional semifinals with a 12-3 win against Winchester. Austin Applegate hit a triple and drove in four runs for the Owls, while Matt Armstrong added two RBIs and a triple of his own.
Daleville defeated Southern Wells 11-3, advancing to the second round of its own sectional. Leading the way offensively for the Broncos was Brandon Vermillion, who went 3-for-4 with two home runs. Daleville’s T.J. Price also went 3-for-4 at the plate and contributed a home run, while Corbin Maddox put up a home run and two RBIs.
Wes-Del shut out Southern Wells 10-0, moving on to the Wes-Del Sectional championship game. Maddie Richards threw a no-hitter for the Warriors and was 3-for-3 at the plate with two home runs. Wes-Del’s Chelsea Ledbetter went 3-for-4 in the team’s victory. In the same sectional, Daleville topped Liberty Christian 17-2, closing out the victory with a 10-run inning in the bottom of the fourth. Kaitlyn Ewing pitched a complete game for the Broncos, allowing three hits, five strikeouts and no earned runs. Daleville and Wes-Del will face off for the title at 5 p.m. Thursday.
Cowan beat Union City 10-2 to advance in the Monroe Central Sectional. Katie Reel was 3-for-4 at the plate for the Blackhawks with two triples and a double, while Morgan Roberts put up two doubles in the team’s victory. Union fell 3-1 to Tri in eight innings.