‘Shaky’ West Side wins another district title

The dominance was lacking, but the dominance continued.

Host West Side maintained its decades-long grasp on the District 9 Little League baseball championship by defeating Lebanon 11-4 on Saturday afternoon, yet had to go the full six innings after blasting the same opponent 20-4 earlier in the week.

Payton Pennington homered twice, singled and drove in three runs for the winners. It was a 7-4 affair heading to the sixth before West Side completed its unbeaten run through the double-elimination tournament.

“We were a little shaky today,” West Side manager Tim Nichting said. “I definitely think we were a little overconfident from the get-go. Them scoring two in the first inning was good. It put us in a position to see if we’ve got enough heart to battle back.”

That 2-0 deficit could’ve been worse. Lebanon had two runners on base when a batting-out-of-order ruling ended the inning.

Lebanon manager Chris Short didn’t dispute the fact that his team batted out of order, but he was not happy with the protesting process.

“The interpretation of the rules caused a long delay, and I think that hurt our pitcher (Luke Swanger),” Short said. “The problem happened when a West Side Little League board member called time out from the press box, came down and protested.

“The official rules say a defensive team must notice the batting out of order. They said she was the official scorekeeper — she absolutely was not. She was out here in the batting cages chasing kids out. So it wasn’t the official scorekeeper and it wasn’t the defensive team.”

He lost that argument, and West Side responded with a six-run second inning. Jaylen Robinson’s two-run triple tied the game, and Pennington and winning pitcher Kaden Kimbrell added two-run homers.

Short got ejected in the top of the fourth and watched the rest of the game from the parking lot. The home-plate umpire had issued a warning that the coach would be tossed if he didn’t keep his fans in line, and a comment from the stands resulted in the ejection.

“I’m very proud of my kids,” Short said. “Hamilton is where the bar is set in this tournament. I absolutely think the team I have right now is capable of beating them.”

Noah Schneider and Kyle Blake had RBIs for Lebanon. Caleb Owens collected three hits for West Side, and Alex Mills plated a pair of runs.

“You’ve got to give Lebanon credit. They battled us today,” Nichting said. “We’re still a team in progress. We’re going to work hard before we get to state. We’ll straighten it all out.”

West Side will begin state tournament play in Ashtabula next Sunday at 2 p.m., facing either Avon or the District 11 winner.

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