Another Ohio Little League baseball championship will now require a very long week of winning by Hamilton West Side.
The Hamilton program has captured eight of the last nine 12-year-old state titles, but West Side opened this year’s state tournament with a 10-3 loss to Galion on Saturday afternoon at the Hoover Community Recreation Complex.
“We’re a little shocked,” admitted Hamilton coach Tim Nichting, whose squad didn’t make it out of District 9 as 10s and 11s. “My group’s young. They’re not experienced at this, and hopefully we can start getting a little momentum going our way. I think we’re going to battle. I think we’ll make it interesting for ourselves.”
» DAY BY DAY: State tournament schedule/results
Chase Studer gave Galion a jolt of adrenaline in the bottom of the first inning with an inside-the park home run to the fence in right-center field.
Galion fell behind 2-1 in the top of the third, but tallied three runs in the bottom of the inning and put up a six-spot in the fifth.
“I was 0-5 against (West Side), so I’m truly excited. To get a win like this is pretty sweet,” Galion coach Gary Frankhouse said. “We know them, I’ve prepped our kids, and we were coming in not to be intimidated. We hit the ball hard today. If we show up and hit the ball, we’re going to be tough to beat.”
West Side will head to the losers’ bracket in the double-elimination event and will have to win seven straight games to get its fourth straight state title. Hamilton will meet Kenton on Monday at 6 p.m. — Kenton dropped a 10-0 decision to Berlin East Holmes in the first round.
“We’re going to play better from here on out,” Nichting said. “The good part about this is that starting Monday, we’re going to play every day, so our kids won’t be bored. I’ve been in this before and lost the first game. It’s not over for us.”
Said Frankhouse, “I have tremendous respect for that program. I expect to see them again. That’s the way I’m looking at it. I hope they can do it, and I’ll embrace the next opportunity to play them.”
Eddie Tanner started and pitched 2.1 innings for West Side on Saturday, giving up three runs. Noah Prewitt allowed seven runs over the next 2.2 frames.
West Side led 2-1 after Clint Moak reached base on an error and scored on a passed ball in the second and Prewitt homered to left in the third, but Hamilton managed only six hits against Jayden Leach (three innings), Landon Campbell (1.1 innings) and Derek Prosser (1.2 innings).
Three errors certainly didn’t help the West Side cause.
“Their pitching was OK. It wasn’t anything we haven’t seen,” Nichting said. “We’ve got to do better than (six) hits. We’ve got to be more prepared and ready to play. Three runs aren’t going to beat too many teams.
“We got in some bad positions that we haven’t ever really worked on defensively. They got some bloopers in there, and the floodgates opened. Give Galion credit. They’ve got some big, strong kids, and they moved the ball and made things happen.”
Jacob Baker had an RBI double for Hamilton in the sixth inning. Jonathan Alcorn collected a pair of singles.
For Galion, Carson Frankhouse (two hits, two RBIs), Trevor Vogt (two RBIs), Studer (two hits, RBI) and Carter Weaver (two hits, RBI) were the offensive leaders.
Galion will play Boardman, the 11-year-old state champion in 2017, on Sunday at 6 p.m.
West Side 011-001—3-6-3
WP — Jayden Leach; LP — Eddie Tanner; S — Derek Prosser; HR — WS: Noah Prewitt; G: Chase Studer