By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
After letting one get away at the State Little League Tournament on Tuesday, the Hamilton West Side All-Stars found themselves in a place they haven’t quite been before — facing elimination. They rebounded quite well with a convincing 14-4 victory over Maumee at Cederquist Park’s Tulino Field on Wednesday.
“We’ve got a lot to prove,” Hamilton West manager Tim Nichting said. “Hopefully the kids understand we’re going to battle back through this thing the best we can. But if we’re not going to play defense, we’re going to have a hard time beating anybody.”
With the win, Hamilton West Side advanced to face Wheelersburg, a 12-2 victory over Guernsey County on Wednesday, at 3 p.m. today on Nappi Field. Maumee and Guernsey County were eliminated.
“The biggest thing I can say is I just felt like we were going to win, period,” Nichting said. “I just felt like we were going to hit. As long as we hit, we were going to be all right.”
Maumee threatened in the home half of the first after a leadoff double from Austin Pauken, but couldn’t produce a run.
“We had the leadoff double in the first and couldn’t do the little things,” Maumee manager Dave Wells said. “Usually, we get the bunt down and we didn’t.
“If you get that first run scratched off early, you get in (Hamilton West Side’s) heads a little bit. They’ve never been in the loser’s bracket. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a hit or even get the ball in play solidly.
“It was definitely a little deflating, but it wasn’t like it controlled what happened defensively in the second inning.”
Hamilton West Side answered in a big way in the top of that second with a bit of help from the Maumee defense.
Matthew Myers and Montana Allgaier reached on errors to open the inning and Jaylen Robinson walked to load the bases with one out. Payton Pennington followed with what appeared would be a routine sacrifice fly. The ball caught the wind, however, and was carried over the center field fence for grand slam and a 4-0 Hamilton West Side advantage.
“(I realized it was a grand slam) right about the time it landed,” Pennington said. “I thought it was a pop up that would get me an RBI.”
“That gave us a lot of relief,” Gage Retherford said. “It gave us a four-run lead.”
Maumee could well have been out of the inning with a scoreless tie still in tact. However, the miscues cost the team a great deal.
“My son (Zach Wells) was pitching, he’s not a flamethrower, but we had an opportunity to get out with nothing,” Wells said. “(The errors) led to all those runs being unearned. You can’t give a team like Hamilton five outs in an inning.”
The two homers certainly had Hamilton West Side feeling an edge.
“Any time your get a home run with the bases loaded like that, it takes a lot of wind out of the other team,” Nichting said.
“Absolutely (it took the wind from our sails),” Wells said. “There should have been three outs, instead we’re down, 4-0. It does blow the wind out of their sails. The kids get down on themselves. We had plenty of chances to get back in the game, but we didn’t capitalize.”
Following a ground out, Retherford followed with a solo shot to left-center for a 5-0 lead. Cameron Tenhunfeld later walked and scored on a Matthew Myers and Alex Mills, who had singled, scored on a wild pitch for a 7-0 Hamilton West Side lead through one and a half innings.
“There wasn’t a lot of pressure on me,” Retherford said. “I was just looking to make contact.”
In the second, Hamilton West Side added to its lead after Hunter Scott, pinch hitting for Robinson, singled. Robinson re-entered and scored on a double by Pennington.
Maumee broke through with a run in the bottom of the third.
Eli Augustyniak led off with a single, but appeared stranded following a groundout and a flyout. But Braden Wagner reached on an error and Matthew Dalton walked to load the bases. Carter McGannon then walked to bring home Augustyniak.
Maumee trailed, 8-1, at that point.
Hamilton West Side added two more in the fourth on a two-run shot to left-center off the bat of Cooper Haynes.
In the fifth, Cameron Tenhunfeld reached on an error, scoring Caleb Owens before Alex Mills blasted a three-run homer to put Hamilton West Side up, 14-1.
Maumee plated three runs in the home half of the fifth behind five walks and an RBI single from Blake Hazard.
There were a few missed opportunities by Maumee. It left bases loaded in the third and had runners in scoring position in the fourth, but couldn’t deliver with a timely hit.
“I’ve known these kids and been around them in some way, most of them anyway, for the last five years,” Wells said. “I know what they’re capable of. You see little things happen and they get in their own heads. I know they can perform, so I’m never too worried.
“You have to capitalize on those chances, if you don’t, you’re not moving on. That’s kind of where we are.”
Wheelersburg 12, Guersney County 2
The only time Guernsey County led was following a homer from Peyton Neff on the game’s first pitch.
Wheelersburg answered with three in the bottom of the first before C.J. Moore homered on the first pitch of the second inning for Guernsey County.
Wheelersburg then countered with five in the second, two in the third and two more in the fourth.
Justin Salyers picked up the victory allowing the two runs on just the two homers. He struck out four and walked no one.
Trey Carter paced the Wheelersburg offense with three hits, including a pair of doubles, and two runs. Dustin Darnell homered and doubled while driving in three, Trent Salyers homered among three hits and drove in a pair and Evan Dahm had two hits and drove in two. Athen Tampanaros had two hits, Gage Salyers scored three times and Justin Salyers scored two runs.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.