Hamilton West Side dug down and found its collective self this week, but that couldn’t produce an Ohio Little League Tournament championship.
West Side opened the 12-year-old state baseball event with a 10-3 loss to Galion last Saturday, then ran off our four straight wins before falling to Boardman 5-4 in the losers’ bracket final Friday night at the Hoover Community Recreation Complex.
Hamilton had won the last three and eight of the last nine state titles at this level.
» DAY BY DAY: State tournament schedule/results
» STATE GAME 1: Galion 10, Hamilton West Side 3
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» STATE GAME 2: Hamilton West Side 11, Kenton 1
» STATE GAME 3: Hamilton West Side 8, Tallmadge 2
» STATE GAME 4: Hamilton West Side 13, Ironton 3
» STATE GAME 5: Hamilton West Side 15, Galion 1
“Sometimes it just feels like things aren’t meant to be,” West Side coach Tim Nichting said. “We came a long way this week. We got a lot better. We really wanted to get in that championship game and let the dice roll. It’s a shame, but I think we made Hamilton proud.”
Friday’s defeat came in walkoff fashion when Tyler Kirlik, a 10-year-old, slapped a bases-loaded single with no outs in the bottom of the sixth.
Jonathan Alcorn pitched the first five innings for Hamilton, but gave way to Noah Prewitt in the sixth after throwing 89 pitches. Alcorn totaled eight strikeouts, and they combined on a six-hitter.
With the score tied 4-4, Dylan Barrett led off the Boardman sixth with a single. Marty Stachowicz put down a sacrifice bunt and the ball was mishandled at first base, leaving runners on first and third. Stachowicz stole second without a throw, Ryan Conti was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Kirlik came to the plate.
The count was 3-2 when he delivered a solid single to right field to end the game.
“I was kind of nervous, but he gave me a strike to hit and I got a base hit,” Kirlik said. “I was so happy because you know I’m only 10 years old and I’m playing on a 12-year-old team. It’s great.”
Boardman coach Robert Hyde said he felt confident sending Kirlik to the plate in that situation.
“We brought him on the team this year as a hitter,” Hyde said. “We give every player an opportunity to be one of our starting nine on the field, and that was told to him when we selected him for the team. But his key role was to be a hitter.
“With the rules of Little League and 13 players on the roster, you bring players off the bench to hit in certain situations, and the kid’s a pure hitter. He’s calm. He’s cool. He just loves hitting the ball.”
Boardman rallied from a 3-1 deficit and went ahead 4-3 in the bottom of the fifth on Jack Ericson’s two-out, two-run, inside-the-park home run that hit the chalk down the left-field line.
Nichting noted that it was the second inside-the-park homer against Hamilton in the state tournament. Galion’s Chase Studer did it last Saturday.
“You would think that’s unheard of in Little League,” Nichting said. “Their good hitter comes up, a left-handed hitter, and it hits the line and goes down in that left-field corner. Give him credit. He put the ball in play, he could run, and it was in the right spot. Two inches over and we’d probably be smiling right now.”
Said Hyde, “Ericson’s got speed — he’s the fastest on our team. He’s actually done that a couple times before where he pokes them out in the corners. I saw him coming around second, I saw the ball still out there deep in the outfield, so I pulled him through and sent him.”
Hamilton knotted the game at 4-4 in the top of the sixth when pinch-hitter Xander Arnold’s ground out plated Nick Brosius.
Nichting hadn’t planned to pinch-hit Arnold for Eddie Tanner, but tournament officials brought out the rulebook and said Arnold — West Side’s last substitute of the game — had to be one of the first three batters in the sixth. Brosius and Ethan Stone opened the inning with singles.
“I just thought I could wait until there was one or two outs,” Nichting said. “I didn’t know that rule, but that’s fine. They had to make a play on Xander, and he tied the game up.”
Prewitt drove in a run, Stone had two hits and Alcorn doubled for West Side. Barrett collected two hits for Boardman.
Ericson pitched two-plus innings for the winners and Anthony Triveri finished to get the victory.
“Sometimes it’s funny how things work. We hit the big kid (Ericson) better than we hit the little kid (Triveri) for the most part,” Nichting said. “The little kid was just a lot of junk and a lot slower, and we were a little jumpy. But we moved the ball. We’ve just got to play a little bit better defense.”
Nichting started coaching Little League in 1983 and was asked if he’d be returning next year.
“My daughter yells at me that I’ve got to stay for my grandkid, who will soon be 8,” Nichting said. “We’ll see.”
Boardman, the District 2 champion, will play New Albany in Saturday’s finals and will have to beat the District 6 winners twice to earn the state crown.
West Side 012-001—4-5-2
WP — Anthony Triveri; LP — Noah Prewitt; HR — B: Jack Ericson