West Side players hugged their parents. They hugged their coaches. They posed for photos. They ran around the field with the championship flag. Then they accepted their state championship medals and posed for more photos under the scoreboard, which read, "West Side 5, Galion 4."
» SATURDAY PHOTOS: West Side celebrates championship
The Hamilton all-star team's ninth Ohio championship in the last 11 years was as sweet as any because of the drama in the final innings Saturday at Bevelhymer Park.
West Side owned a 2-1 lead until the fifth inning when Galion moved ahead with two runs. Facing a 3-2 deficit entering the top of the sixth, West Side coach Ken Coomer told his team, "Don't quit."
"I had all the confidence in the world," shortstop Matt Ponatoski said. "I knew we'd get our baserunners.
» THURSDAY PHOTOS: West Side vs. Galion
Kade Bowling started the rally in the sixth with a lead-off double. Xander Arnold followed with a walk. Cade Cummins put down a sacrifice bunt and reached on a throwing error as Bowling scored the tying run.
Austin Vangen hit a high chopper and reached first. That loaded the bases. Then Ponatoski drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly. After a single by Conner Cuozzo, a groundout by Peyton Davis scored the third run of the inning.
Galion scored once in the bottom of the sixth and stranded the tying runner at third. Cam Carter, who relieved the starting pitcher, Davis, with one out in the sixth got a strikeout to end the game.
"It was exciting," Coomer said. "It's great 12-year-old baseball. That's what Little League is all about. We love Little League. I've been a part of Little League for a long time, and this is what we love about it. It's community baseball. You work hard let them play."
» TUESDAY PHOTOS: West Side vs. Mount Vernon
West Side trailed 1-0 until a two-run home run by Davis in the third inning.
"I just saw the ball and drove it," Davis said.
"It was a big day for him," Coomer said. "It was a full count. I think he fouled one off and then he got one he could handle and put a nice swing on it."
Galion took a 1-0 lead in the second with a triple and single to start the inning and looked on its way to a big inning when a runner's interference call resulted in the final two outs. The umpires spent close to 15 minutes discussing the call in a huddle.
"The home umpire called interference because the first-base umpire did not see it," Coomer said. "Her judgment was that he intentionally blocked the first baseman from fielding the ball, so from that call, she called the runner out and the hitter out. It was a big turning point."
West Side advanced to the Great Lakes Regional, which will be held Aug. 4-10 in Westfield, Ind. West Side last won the regional championship in 2010.
The Hamilton all-star team won the double-elimination tournament without losing a game, winning five games in eight days. Galion had to beat West Side twice Saturday to win the championship.
West Side won its first game July 20, 13-1 over Maumee, and then beat Tallmadge 13-2 on Sunday, Mount Vernon 7-2 on Tuesday and Galion 5-3 on Thursday.
The Little League World Series take place Aug. 15-25 in Williamsport, Pa. The Great Lakes champion will play the Midwest champion in the first round Aug. 15.