Once again, Hamilton West Side rules Little League baseball at the 12-year-old level in Ohio.
West Side completed an unbeaten surge through the state tournament Saturday by run-ruling Canfield 15-4 in five innings at Ford Park’s Robert S. Hoag Field.
“It feels good, something we’ve worked hard for for a long, long time,” said Hamilton catcher Blake Detherage, who doubled, homered and drove in three runs. “Grand Park, here we come.”
Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind., is the next stop for West Side. The locals will represent Ohio at the Great Lakes Regional and will face the Wisconsin state champion on Sunday, Aug. 6, at 4 p.m.
This Hamilton team watched Canfield win state titles as 10s and 11s, but turned the tables in a big way as 12s.
“We’ve never done this before, and now that it happened, it’s great,” West Side pitcher Lake Cundiff said. “The difference this year is we practice every day, working hard every day, and we’re really grinding out.”
Cundiff had a huge day for the winners. He threw 85 pitches and struck out seven in 3.2 innings to get the mound win (Ethan Mueller finished with 1.1 scoreless frames) and went 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs at the plate.
Hamilton piled up 16 hits, rallying from a 3-2 deficit after two innings and notching eight runs against Canfield ace A.J. Havrilla in 2.2 innings.
“We actually debated not even starting Cundiff that game, but we had a good round of hitting the last two days and we were like, ‘We don’t care who’s pitching for them, we’re going at them,’ ” West Side coach Ken Coomer said.
“The big boy, we were patient with him. We did strike out on a couple high fastballs, but for the most part, we ran high in the pitch count and hit a couple good curveballs. We believe we can hit with anybody.”
GAME 1: Hamilton West Side 13, Maumee 4
GAME 3: Hamilton West Side 5, Canfield 4
This is the 17th 12-year-old championship and 10th in the last 12 years for Hamilton, which won its four state games by a combined score of 45-15.
Braedyn Moore smacked a grand slam and Jackson Martin added a solo homer for West Side. Katelyn Polido and Davis Avery chipped in two hits and an RBI apiece, Logan Bell plated a run, and Casey Parsons had two hits.
“We earn all of them, but this one we definitely earned,” Coomer said of adding another state championship to Hamilton’s resume. “It’s like a first-year team with a new coaching staff and some changes that were made. We had to sell the boys that we could do it, and they bought it. Believing in yourself is the biggest thing.”
Canfield dropped a 5-4 decision to West Side in Thursday’s winners’ bracket final, then blanked Dover 15-0 in the losers’ bracket final Friday to gain some momentum heading into Saturday.
But Hamilton tallied 13 runs in the last three innings and simply overpowered Canfield, which had emerged from the losers’ bracket to win state crowns the last two years.
“Hamilton hits it 1 through 13,” Canfield coach George Beck said. “Their reserves come off the bench and put good swings on it. They battle with two strikes, they foul a lot of pitches off, and they put the ball in play.
“It’s tough when you give up 15 runs to try to win a baseball game. Hats off to them. They were the better team the other day, they were the better team today. They deserve to be state champs.”
Ben Slanker was 2-for-3 with a two-run homer for Canfield. Havrilla had two hits and Michael Patellis added an RBI.
Cundiff wasn’t unhittable, allowing six hits and four runs (three earned) during his time on the hill. But Canfield is known for scoring in bunches, and Cundiff didn’t permit that to happen.
“It was a little nerve-wracking,” he said. “They hit pretty good, but I was able to conceal my emotions. I definitely brought it today.”
West Side started to pull away with a six-run third inning that included Cundiff’s two-run homer and Martin’s solo shot off the bench. In the fourth, Hamilton loaded the bases on three straight walks and struck out twice before Moore went deep over the center-field fence.
“I give it up to Lake,” Detherage said. “He kept the pitching down … then hitting carried us.”
Jake Schneider, Luca Ricchiuti and Connor Daggett followed Havrilla, who threw 76 pitches, to the mound for Canfield.
“It seemed like they were hitting (Havrilla’s) curveball more than his fastball. We were trying to keep them off balance a little bit,” Beck said. “That’s the first time we started A.J. all year. I’m surprised he went as long as he did because he typically would pitch in the closing role. But he guts it out. He was in no way going to tell me that he couldn’t go as long as he did.”
Beck has been coaching Canfield’s district teams the last six seasons. He’ll likely be a spectator next year, but he hopes the Canfield-West Side rivalry will continue to grow.
“I’ve been in the program for 11 years, and it’s in pretty good shape,” Beck said. “I think we’ve taken it to another level, and hopefully they continue to do that. I just hope Canfield players stay and play in Canfield because it is one of the premier programs in the state of Ohio.”
West Side 206-43—15-16-2
WP — Lake Cundiff; LP — A.J. Havrilla; HR — WS: Braedyn Moore, Blake Detherage, Jackson Martin, Cundiff; C: Ben Slanker