For five innings, the semifinals of the West Holmes Youth Baseball league tournament were everything that a final ought to be.
Locked in a tight duel with West Holmes Taylor in the 12U semifinal contest Monday, June 22 at Killbuck Park, Sugarcreek needed a spark leading off the top of the sixth and final inning, as it hoped to build on its precarious 3-2 lead. It got one in the way of their team speed, which sent them on to a stunning five run inning that blew open the game and sent them to the finals with an 8-2 victory.
West Holmes got out to an early 2-0 lead in the second inning. Brayden Myers was hit by a pitch, Kyle Troyer singled him over to third and Jay Mast and Tucker Kaufman delivered RBI singles.
Sugarcreek answered right back with a two-spot in the top of the third, Jason Miller singled, scored on Ben Hershberger’s double, and then Winston Troyer cleaned up with a solid triple.
Sugarcreek took the lead for good in the fourth off of Myers, who relieved Kyle Troyer in the fourth for West Holmes.
Sugarcreek starting pitcher Andrew Bunn smoked a single, and roared home on Matthew Beachy’s double.
Winston Troyer was given the chore of shutting down Taylor’s squad, and he did so.
Meanwhile, Sugarcreek was ramping up for a big finale in the sixth.
It began with a Jaydon Miller single and a walk to Hershberger. With one out, Bunn reached via an error, the lone error of the game, to make it 4-2. Beachy and Justin Beaber followed with a run-scoring single and double, respectively, and by the time Jay Miller recorded an RBI single, the lead was suddenly six.
That would be more than enough for Winston Mullet, who allowed Brady Taylor to reach via a walk, but was able to shut the door, closing out Team Taylor’s season.
“We came through the first three games of the tournament in pretty good shape, but when you get dumped into the loser’s bracket, it can be a pretty tough place to get out of,” said Travis Taylor, West Holmes’ coach.
“We did a really nice job pitching all throughout this season, and we threw pretty well in this game too. We just had that one bad inning where we kind of fell apart and they took advantage.”
That inning was the five run sixth, when Sugarcreek piled on a lead that proved to be insurmountable.
“I told our kids, with the way our pitchers were locked in, we could win this game 3-2 if we just went out and played defense,” said John Bunn, Sugarcreek coach. “Our saying is ‘hang an egg’ and we hung one five of the six innings.
“But after we got those five runs in the sixth inning, I told our coaches, ‘I thought we could win 3-2, but I am a lot more comfortable up 8-2.’”
The pitching was stellar most of the game for both teams, and there was some terrific defensive gems.
“I told the kids after it was over, that was one of the cleanest games we have played in all year,” said Bunn. “There were very few walks and very few errors.”
That lead Sugarcreek had built, however, thoroughly deflated West Holmes.
“We got our heads down after that and we couldn’t get them back in it,” said Taylor.
These two teams were not unfamiliar with one another. West Holmes had taken two of the three contests in the regular season, but all were close contests, and this one was no different.
“They came out and played hard, and they were the better team tonight,” said Travis, who said they were looking forward to a rematch with Ragesville, the team waiting in the finals that had dumped them into the loser’s bracket 4-1, and the only team to beat up Taylor’s squad this year.
That never came to fruition, and now it is Bunn’s turn to face the giant that is Ragersville, a one-loss team that has looked dominant.
Bunn’s squad is the team that handed Ragersville their one loss this season, in three attempts, so he said they know they can do the job.
“That is good for us because we know we can at least beat them, but they are really, really tough, and they are loaded with great pitching,” said Bunn.