Hamilton West Side exited the Little League Great Lakes Regional with a third-place finish Friday evening.
West Side’s 12-year-old baseball team was within a run of Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores (Mich.) in the fifth inning, then got overpowered in an 11-3 defeat at Grand Park Sports Campus.
“We’re still proud,” Hamilton coach Ken Coomer said. “This was a team that had never really won anything. They never placed in the top four in the state as 10- and 11-year-olds. Canfield had pretty much owned them at the state the last two years, and we came out and swept Canfield, won the state and represented pretty well here.”
Coomer knew it was going to be a tall order to beat Grosse Pointe without his top two pitchers, Braedyn Moore and Lake Cundiff. They combined to beat the Michigan champions 10-2 on Monday, but couldn’t throw Friday due to pitch-count rules.
West Side couldn’t hold a 4-1 advantage in the bottom of the sixth inning Wednesday and lost to Hinsdale (Ill.) 5-4, leading to Friday’s elimination game.
“We had everything going our way against Illinois, then we shot ourselves in the foot,” Coomer said. “That was the turning point, not necessarily this game.”
Grosse Pointe will now meet Hinsdale for the regional title and a World Series berth Saturday at 5 p.m.
Matthew Greene threw five-plus innings of three-hit ball with 10 strikeouts for Grosse Pointe on Friday. Fellow right-hander Will Pflaum finished things off by retiring all three batters he faced, two on strikeouts.
West Side got a solo home run from Cundiff in the second inning and a two-run homer from Jared Halupnik off the bench in the top of the fifth, closing the gap to 4-3.
REGIONAL GAME 1: Hamilton West Side 22, Wausau National (Wis.) 4
REGIONAL GAME 2: Hamilton West Side 10, Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores (Mich.) 2
REGIONAL GAME 3: Hinsdale (Ill.) 5, Hamilton West Side 4
Grosse Pointe pulled away by erupting for seven runs and seven hits, including four doubles, in the bottom of the fifth.
“I thought that we put together great at-bats the last two games, but sometimes you put together great at-bats and don’t get results,” Grosse Pointe coach Jason Hill said. “We didn’t really get great results until the fifth inning today.
“I think we kind of wore them down a little bit. We laid off curveballs early in the count and made them throw a lot of pitches. I give Hamilton’s kids all the credit. I thought their kids battled, and I thought we battled. We had to scratch and claw for everything today. They kind of ran out of arms in the fifth inning, and we took advantage.”
Jaycee Taylor threw 1.1 innings, Ethan Mueller pitched three innings and Davis Avery finished for West Side. They allowed 12 hits.
“We did the best our ability could do as far as pitching goes,” Coomer said. “We knew we didn’t go as deep as some other teams.
“We thought it could be a high-scoring game, and we didn’t hit. We can say all we want about the umpire. I thought he was bad, but in the same sense, they scored 11 runs and we only scored three. So from our side of things, we should’ve done a better job hitting the ball.”
Greene had the look of an ace, even though Grosse Pointe didn’t have its top two hurlers available either.
“I just came into the game knowing what I had and what I can do,” Greene said. “The curveball really helped me today. I could locate it well, and my fastball was pretty good and on today.”
“I think the world of him as a pitcher. Unfortunately on this staff, he’s behind (Joey) Randazzo and (Jack) Jones, who are very, very good,” Hill said. “But I had all the confidence in the world that he would be able to go out there today and keep us in the game, and that’s exactly what he did.”
Jones was 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs for Grosse Pointe. Drew Hill, Greene and Jordan Arseneau drove in two runs apiece, Adam Ayrault and Arseneau each added two hits, and Ryan Jones had an RBI.
“They’re just big, strong kids,” Coomer said. “I mean, you’re facing some kids that look like men, and they’re athletic.”
Grosse Pointe has won three straight since losing to Hamilton, and Greene said the Michigan players brought a lot of confidence into Friday’s affair.
“The last game we made a lot of errors, so we came into this game knowing we could beat them by minimizing the errors,” Greene said. “I think we had better approaches at the plate today, and we definitely hit the fastball and laid off the curve.”
Hinsdale is the only unbeaten team remaining in the regional, yet in this modified double-elimination format, Saturday’s game is a winner-take-all contest. This is the first time the Illinois program has made it to this level.
“They have their ace tomorrow,” Greene said. “So we have to have good plate discipline and go up to the plate knowing we can hit the ball and be very aggressive.”
This was Hamilton’s 17th trip to the regional and 10th in the last 12 years. The locals will look to continue that tradition next year.
“Our job is to try to keep as many kids in Little League as possible,” Coomer said. “Our fight is just like everybody else’s — we’re losing kids to travel ball. This is a great community organization, and I think Hamilton West Side represents pretty well every year. I hope kids can remember that.”
West Side 010-020—3-3-2
Grosse Pointe 031-07x—11-12-1
WP — Matthew Greene; LP — Jaycee Taylor; HR — WS: Lake Cundiff, Jared Halupnik; GP: Jack Jones