Hoover, SC headed in opposite directions
Sometimes, success can be as hard to shake as bad luck.
Zach Mullins blasted a solo home run in the top of the seventh inning Saturday and Cody Bowen added a tiebreaking single moments later as Herbert Hoover rallied for a 7-6 prep baseball victory against South Charleston in the drizzle at Appalachian Power Park.
It marked the 10th victory in 11 games for the Huskies (17-4), the No. 1 team in the Gazette's Class AA state rankings, and was the seventh loss in a row for the Black Eagles (6-20), three of those coming by a single run.
South Charleston led 6-0 after four innings, but Hoover got back into it by plating five runs in the top of the fifth, including the final two on a fielding error with two out. That set up the final act of the Huskies' comeback in the seventh.
"That's one thing we've been driving at them all year,'' said Hoover coach Brian Young, "to stay in ballgames regardless of what the score is, regardless of how bad we've played. You've got to come focused and finish the ballgame. They're getting better at that all year.''
Hoover paved its own demise early with several of what would become six errors, and SC scored two runs in the third on a wild pitch.
"Early on, I think that's the worst I've ever seen us play,'' Young said, "but they didn't hang their heads. They stuck with it and battled back and won the ballgame.
"We had the jitters this morning. We were out in front swinging there at the plate. We're young - got a lot of kids out there who are sophomores. To come down here and play, it's big time for them, so they were really excited.''
Mullins tied the score with one out in the seventh when he smoked what looked like a line drive toward the gap in right-center field.
But instead of hitting off the fence, the ball cleared it for a 6-all game.
"I wasn't really expecting it to be a home run,'' Mullins said. "Then it just kept carrying, and I heard it hit the bleachers out there and I said, 'Well, I guess it's a home run.' I just got excited and kept running around the bases.''
Zach Wright followed with a single and stole second, putting the lead run in scoring position. With two out, Bowen delivered an RBI single to left to put Hoover ahead.
Good fortune followed the Huskies into the home half of the seventh.
With one out and Austin Santrock on first after a single, SC's Evan Delbart bounced what looked like a possible single right back up the middle. However, Hoover shortstop Ryan Shamblin was sprinting toward second base and snagged the ball just as he stepped on the bag. His peg to first retired Delbart for a game-ending double play.
For SC coach Ken Samms, it was more of the same. His team lost a pair of one-run games in last weekend's Ed Carter Memorial Tournament.
"It's just snakebitten,'' Samms said. "We play good baseball for four, five innings, then we stop. But good ballclubs, they don't stop. We didn't score anything after the fourth inning.
"I think they start looking around and think, 'Hey, we might win a ballgame,' then they tighten up a little bit and tighten up at the plate and in the field. It's just one of those things that you wish didn't happen - and it's hard on me, too. Hopefully, we'll get situated and get it figured out before we get to sectionals in a couple weeks. Losing's contagious. Once they get it in their heads that they can't win, it's a struggle.''
The Black Eagles had some flashes.
Rease Ripley led off the bottom of the first with an inside-the-park homer after his sinking liner eluded the right fielder and rolled into the corner. Santrock and Jacob Woolwine each went 2-for-4 with an RBI for SC and Delbart robbed Hoover's Corey Bird of extra bases in the sixth with a nifty pickup of a smash down the first-base line. Jared Jobst also worked a complete game, protecting the lead most of the way.
"Jobst threw a great ballgame,'' Samms said, "but he got behind a few hitters at the end, and they've got some guys who can hit.''
Bowen (3-for-4, RBI) led Hoover's offensive attack, followed by Jacob Russell (2-for-2), Wright (2-for-3, RBI) and Bird (2-for-4, RBI).
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.