Prep baseball: White helps push Hoover past Sissonville
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Earlier in the season, Herbert Hoover Coach Brian Young couldn't find a place in the lineup that seemed comfortable for junior Hunter White.
Now, Young couldn't find a spot where he isn't.
The bottom of the lineup, spearheaded by the hitting of White, has pushed the Herbert Hoover baseball team on the brink of a State Tournament berth with a 10-2 victory over Sissonville in a Class AA Region 4 semifinal on Tuesday at Jeff Holliday Field in Falling Rock.
The victory gives Hoover (28-3) a three-game season sweep of the Indians and the right to host Wayne (13-15) in the regional final at 6 p.m. Thursday.
It also provided more proof that Hoover's lineup is lethal to opposing pitching whether No. 1 batter Corey Bird is hitting or No. 9 batter Shaun Dotson is at the plate.
"When one part struggles, the other part has to pick them up," said Young, who guided the Huskies to the State Tournament in 2012 - the team's first appearance since Hoover won the championship in 2007 in Coach Kevin Buckner's final season. "Obviously, you'd like to have all nine of them hitting at the same time. They've done a nice job of picking each other up when some of them aren't seeing the ball as well."
For the second baseman's part, he is 12-for-19 in his last five games, which included one stint in the leadoff spot when Bird strained a muscle and sat out against Clay County.
The younger brother of James White, who was a member of Herbert Hoover's 2007 championship team, was 2-for-4 and is on a five-game hitting streak that has included nine RBI.
That's a far cry from earlier in the season when White batted second, seventh and ninth in the order and was 5-for-28 in the first nine games of the season.
"Usually numbers don't lie, but at the beginning of the year he was hitting it right at people," Bird said. "He was the unluckiest guy. He's a really good hitter. Me and him hit a bunch after practice and I just told him to keep at it."
The Huskies started slowly against Sissonville (14-21), which earned a spot in the regional semifinal via a sectional upset sweep of Poca.
The Indians scored two runs in the first inning behind a Jacob Fisher single, a Zach Null double and Dominic Walker double.
The Huskies came right back and scored two runs in the first with the top of its order - Bird doubled to lead off, No. 3 hitter Ryan Shamblin singled and cleanup hitter Cody Bowen singled to tie the score.
The top did its damage, as Hoover took a 3-2 lead in the second and extended it to 4-2 in the fifth behind a Shamblin run-scoring single.
The floodgates were opened by the bottom of the Hoover lineup, with No. 6 hitter Tristan Fields, White and No. 8 hitter Sean Craze getting singles during a six-run sixth. Craze's hit knocked in a run and Sissonville helped Hoover with three errors in the inning.
Null, who had given up three earned runs in five innings, could keep up with Fields - Hoover's starting pitcher. The left-hander struck out nine Hoover batters, but had only one in the sixth and seventh innings. Five of Hoover's six runs in the sixth inning were unearned.
"I'm proud of him, he pitched his heart out," Sissonville Coach Kenny Harper said. "The wheels fell off and we couldn't stop it. It just starting snowballing."
Fields, who was making his ninth start of the season, shook off some early-game struggles to face one over the minimum number of batters in all but two innings. He struck out the side in the second and seventh innings and was helped by some Sissonville base-running mistakes.
"I was dehydrated ... I'm still dehydrated," Fields said after the game. "I owe it all to my defense. Every time a ball was put in play they made a play and that calmed me down."
Fields, who shaved off another 14 points from his earned run average (1.98 to 1.84), struck out 11 batters and didn't issue a walk. The junior has 69 strikeouts and seven walks in 49 1/3 innings this season. His only loss is an April 19 hiccup at Poca.
He was dominant against the bottom of Sissonville's lineup, which saw its No. 6 through No. 9 hitters go 1-for-10 with eight strikeouts.
Meanwhile, the bottom four hitters for Hoover were 6-for-14 with two doubles and two RBI.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.