Hamilton West Side Little League is once again making some postseason noise at the 12-year-old level.
This year’s West Side squad didn’t win the District 9 baseball tournament as 10s or 11s, but the 12s have always been a different story.
West Side has ruled this event every year since it started in 1985 and took a big step toward winning it again Tuesday night, blanking Hamilton-Fairfield 10-0 in a four-inning winners’ bracket final at West Side.
“We’re really preaching mentality to these kids,” West Side coach Tim Nichting said. “Don’t kid yourself. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re doing pretty well right now.
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“I definitely like this team. We’ve got some nice players getting better every day and getting that mentality of wanting to win, wanting to go out there and exert effort to win. I would say this team’s pretty good. We’ve always got a chance.”
DAY BY DAY: District 9 tournament schedule, results
Noah Prewitt and Ethan Stone combined on a no-hitter and didn’t officially allow a runner to reach base.
Noah Wagster smacked a first-pitch double off the fence in left-center field in the bottom of the first inning for Hamilton-Fairfield, but he was called out on an appeal for missing first base. The next 11 Hamilton-Fairfield batters went down in order.
“I didn’t see (Wagster) miss the base,” Hamilton-Fairfield coach Travis Riley said. “He tells me he touched it, so I’ll take his word for it.”
Prewitt went the first 3.1 innings to get the win for West Side, which will play for the title on its home field Thursday at 8:30 p.m.
Anderson Township — a 2-1 winner over Loveland on Tuesday night — will face Hamilton-Fairfield in the losers’ bracket final Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., and the victor will have to beat West Side twice to advance to the state tournament in North Canton. If a second final is needed, it will be played Friday at 8:30 p.m.
“When you win it (33) straight years, that makes a big difference and builds your program up,” Riley said. “Until somebody can beat them, they’re always going to have that mental edge over everybody else, even when they have a down year like everyone is saying they’re having this year.”
Prewitt said this West Side crew isn’t feeling any extra pressure after failing to win district titles in 2016 and 2017. Loveland was last year’s 11-year-old champion.
“We got better this year with way better coaching and a lot more work,” Prewitt said. “Nichting and (Ken) Coomer have helped us so much, it’s crazy. We’re just truckin’ through. We have to remember this is the game we love to play. Tonight was very fun, very hard … they were a good baseball team. We just played our game and did what we usually do.”
West Side scored in every inning, making the game a rout with five runs in the third and three in the fourth.
Clint Moak was 3-for-3 with three runs and two RBIs in the winning effort, and Nick Brosius doubled twice, scored three times and plated one run. They were both on last year’s 12-year-old team as 11s.
“I think they got good experience from being here last year,” Nichting said. “They know what it takes to be a winner, and they stepped up in a big game.”
Jonathan Alcorn, Camden Carter, Noah Licata and Javon McClain added RBIs against Hamilton-Fairfield’s Jordan Zapata, who threw 3.1 innings and 87 pitches, and Braylin Hailstones.
“Give Hamilton-Fairfield’s pitcher credit. He throws the ball well,” Nichting said of Zapata. “He’s just a little wild. We took advantage of some passed balls, and we hit the ball a little bit.”
West Side scored a run on two Hamilton-Fairfield errors in the first inning. Riley’s squad misplayed several balls into hits and generally looked uncertain in the field.
“They made all the plays,” Riley said. “That was the difference between them and us tonight.”
Wagster’s opening shot didn’t rattle Prewitt, who said, “There’s a bunch of good teams out here. You get hit and you take a breath and just go through it.”
Nichting feels like his team has three No. 1 pitchers in Prewitt, Alcorn and Stone. Alcorn will be unavailable to throw Thursday, and Stone will get the start.
Wagster will be on the hill Wednesday when Hamilton-Fairfield squares off with Anderson. Riley said he’s expecting his team to bounce back and earn another shot at West Side.
“We’ve got kids that want to win just as bad as anybody else,” Riley said. “West Side is a class organization. I just want to make sure that people realize there’s more than one Little League in this town and that we run a class organization too.”
West Side 115-3—10-8-0
WP — Noah Prewitt; LP — Jordan Zapata