PREP BASEBALL: Poca stuns defending Class AA champs
POCA — The coachspeak that came out of the mouth of Poca head baseball coach Mike Hutchinson was anything but.
When he told his players to forget about the regular season, that’s exactly what they did during a celebratory night in the Class AA Region 4 semifinals at Al Billings Park.
The Dots squandered a five-run lead then scored on a wild pitch in the sixth inning to shock defending champion Herbert Hoover 8-6 in a game during which Poca turned the tables on the usually mistake-free Huskies (25-6).
The win moves Poca (12-20) into the Region 4 championship game on Wednesday at Chapmanville, which defeated Wayne 7-1 in the other Region 4 semifinal on Monday. The Tigers’ victory gave coach Eric Ellis his 300th career win.
Part of Poca’s success surrounded around its defense, which included no errors and featured a pair of 5-4-3 double plays, including one that doused a seventh-inning threat by the Huskies.
“We had a week off before the sectional tournament and we spent a lot of time in a lot of stations, and even during our batting practice rounds, we had a group in the infield fielding ground balls,” said Hutchinson, Poca’s first-year coach.
It wasn’t entirely about the defense, and although the Dots were outhit 13-6, they made them count.
Their first run was scored on a passed ball, Matt Chandler hit a solo home run in the second for a 2-0 lead — his first of the season — and he added a two-run single in the third. Chandler also walked with the bases loaded in the sixth to complete a 3-for-3, four-RBI night.
“We didn’t do very well in the regular season, I guess we didn’t want it enough,” said Chandler, whose batting averaged jumped from .360 to .381. “We want more than anything to go to states, to win it all.”
The Dots jumped out to a 5-0 lead with three more runs in the third and pitcher Noah Frampton continually battled out of trouble. He left two runners on in the second and two more in the fourth. After a three-up, three-down fifth he ran out of gas.
The Huskies had five consecutive hits to open the sixth before Frampton left the game for reliever Jake Payne. After a three-pitch strikeout of Derek Dodd, Payne gave up a three-run homer to Joel Ridenour which gave Hoover a 6-5 lead. Back-to-back strikeouts ended the inning.
“We’ve been in that situation multiple times,” Hoover coach Brian Young said. “We told them, you’ve been in that situation before, go out there and score some runs and keep chipping away. We didn’t relax, but it just wasn’t our night.”
Brett Watts opened Poca’s sixth with a walk, and after being sacrificed to second by Skyler Vealey and a Carson Cottrill strikeout, Luke Frampton hit the first pitch from reliever Tristan Fields for a game-tying single. A Jacob Hill double kept the inning going before a wild pitch to Noah Frampton gave Poca the lead. Chandler’s bases-loaded walk extended the advantage to two runs.
“We don’t feel like we’re ever out of it,” Hutchinson said. “Now that we’re fired up and pumped up, we got up 5-0 early why can’t we score late? We had the good part of the order up and really 1-9 swinging the bats well.”
Hunter White, who had a 1.37 earned run average entering the game, threw 34 pitches and gave up two earned runs before leaving after one inning and one batter. His ERA jumped to 1.77.
The Dots allowed Hoover’s leadoff batter to reach base only twice and Noah Frampton had thrown just 73 pitches in five innings before being lifted.
The victory avenges 8-0 and 12-1 loss to Hoover during the regular season and will pit Poca against Chapmanville, a team that beat the Dots 17-6 and 10-0 in their two meetings this season.
Those are just two more results Poca will have to forget.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at email@example.com or 304-348-4837. Follow him on Twitter @richdailymail