County champs: Warren wins Washington County tournament
After going undefeated against Washington County competition in the regular season, Warren secured it spot as the county’s top team Saturday at Don and Sue Schaly Field at Pioneer Park.
The Warriors defeated Waterford 6-2 and Marietta 7-5 in a round-robin style tournament to claim the county championship. The title didn’t come without some drama though.
Warren trailed Marietta 5-2 with one out in the bottom of the sixth when it put together a rally. Marietta reliever Dakota Miller walked Caleb Davis and gave up an infield single to Evan Gandee before getting Kurt Taylor to ground out to short for the second out. That’s when Miller lost control. Hunter Vincent walked to load the bases. Brett Gandee followed with a walk after his popup in foul territory was dropped, platinga run to make it 5-3. Dalton Higgins was hit by a pitch to make it 5-4, and then Bradyn Gerber drew a base on balls to tie things up.
Marietta head coach Josh McKitrick called on Corbin Alkire to take over on the mound. The first batter Alkire faced was Hunter Grimm. Grimm, a sophomore-to-be at Warren, muscled a blooper over a diving J.B. Wharff at shortstop to plate two runs, putting Warren up 7-5.
“I thought the kids did a good job of staying the course and not chasing pitches out of the zone,” said Warren head coach Ryan Lemley. “We had told them we’re looking for fastballs in the zone. If you got back, I think we had an infield single in there. Everything else was freebies. So give the kids a lot of credit for staying the course.”
Evan Gandee pitched a scoreless seventh for Warren to secure the win.
Kurt Taylor started for Warren and didn’t have his best stuff, but worked through it and kept his team in the game. Taylor pitched five innings, walking four and striking out three while getting a no-decision.
“I thought, as a No. 1 starter, he did what No. 1 starters do when they don’t have their best stuff,” Lemley said. “He just worked through it, worked through some bad luck, worked through some location issues with the offspeed (pitches) and just did what you’d expect a No. 1 guy to do — go bulldog it and keep us close”
Gandee pitched the final two frames, striking out two to earn the win. Grimm caught all seven innings in addition to coming up with the game-winning hit.
“I thought (Grimm) did a good job, especially as a freshman coming in and catching Kurt,” Lemley said. “That’s not easy to do. Kurt’s ball moves a lot. I thought he battled back there and kind of stayed the course at the plate. We told him ‘we’re leaving you in. Look for a fastball.’ He got the first pitch strike and hit it.”
Justin Thompson gave Marietta a strong start on the bump. He went five innings, walked four, struck out five and allowed just two runs. Miller pitched 2/3 innings, walking four and taking the loss, while Alkire retired one batter via a strikeout.
Miller started the game with a bang, hitting a triple to the right-center field wall and scoring on a wild pitch by Taylor. Later in the inning, Alkire hit a towering popup to third that was dropped, allowing him to get to second. Two wild pitches by Taylor allowed Alkire come in and score.
Warren got those runs right back in the bottom of the first. Davis led off with a single to right. Evan Gandee walked and Vincent was plunked to load the bases before Brett Gandee tied the game with a two-run single.
Marietta retook the lead in the top of the third. With one out, Alkire again hit a sky-high fly ball to center that was misjudged and fell for a triple. Jarrett Jackson followed with a sacrifice fly to center to make it 3-2.
Marietta added a pair of runs in the top of the fifth. Alkire drew a one-out walk before a single by Jackson to left. An error on the throw to the infield allowed Alkire and Jackson to move up a base. Both runners advanced again on a wild pitch, Alkire scoring to make it 4-2. Thompson then flew out deep enough to center to bring in Jackson for the team’s fifth run.
Lemley noted that his previous Warren teams may have rolled over at this point in the game, but the 2020 Warriors kept battling.
“In the past what would happen if would happen if we were down 5-2 we would have rolled over,” he said. “Or we’d have been the team up 5-2 and gave up the lead. But instead, I think their maturity is starting to shine through. We’ve got a chance to be special next year as long as we keep getting better.”
Earlier in the morning, Vincent led Warren past the Wildcats. He pitched four innings with three strikeouts and added two hits and two runs-batted-in at the plate.
Jacob Huffman and Mason Heiss had two hits each for Waterford.
The final game of the tournament was a wild one between Waterford and Marietta, with the Wildcats winning 26-16.
Braden Miller earned the mound victory for the Wildcats. Jude Huffman had three hits for Waterford while Quentin Doak and Heiss had two apiece. Heiss also tripled in the game.
Bryson Chavez had four hits in the game for the Tigers. Miller had two hits, including a triple, while Alkire added two base knocks.
Jordan Holland can be reached at email@example.com.