The decades-long dominance has continued for the Hamilton West Side Little League all-stars.
The District 9 baseball tournament for 12-year-olds started in 1985, and a West Side team has never failed to capture the championship. That includes 2017.
Host West Side completed an unbeaten run through the double-elimination event Monday evening by pulling away for a 10-0, four-inning triumph over Lebanon.
“We have a great program, and when I say great program, we start from the age of 4 all the way up,” West Side coach Ken Coomer said. “We want kids to stick around, and I think our success helps with that.
“We do lose some kids to travel ball, which we don’t like to see, but it all comes from the bottom up. When we get here, everybody kind of understands and knows what it’s all about.”
Braedyn Moore pitched a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts in the run-rule affair, and Davis Avery smacked a pair of home runs and collected three RBIs for the winners.
West Side advances to the state tournament in Maumee and will open against either Maumee or Wheelersburg at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
“It’s real exciting,” Avery said of winning the local event. “We’re used to it, though, so it’s not anything really big. We’re ready for state.”
Moore played up with Hamilton’s 12-year-old state champions last season. He wants to help this group, which fell short of an 11-year-old state crown last summer, take the top spot in Ohio.
He has confidence in this team because it’s “fundamental, and we’ve got heart.”
West Side couldn’t put Lebanon away until the fourth inning. It should’ve been a 1-2-3 frame, but several errors gave Hamilton some juice and led to a seven-run outburst that included back-to-back homers by Avery and Lake Cundiff.
That pushed the score to 10-0. Lebanon’s Charlie Edling managed a two-out single in the bottom of the frame, but Moore slammed the door with a game-ending strikeout.
Will Bittman pitched 3.2 innings and took the loss. He allowed eight hits and three earned runs.
“They put it in play,” Lebanon coach Kelby Bittman said. “We know they’re a good-hitting team, and sometimes that’s all it takes is putting the ball in play. The errors hurt us, but you still have to remember you’re playing with 12-year-olds, and those kinds of plays happen.
“It would’ve been great to get out of that inning and keep on playing. I think we would’ve given them a game, but you’ve got to tip your hat to their pitcher. He pitched a great game.
“We gave it our best shot. None of the kids showed up intimidated or worried or nervous today. They were all calm. We kept preaching not too high, not too low, and I think they did a good job with that. (West Side) certainly showed us they can hit. As long as they keep doing that, I think they’re going to be tough to beat.”
Blake Detherage homered for West Side, and Moore and Logan Bell added RBI doubles. Colten Lamb had a third-inning single for Lebanon, which dropped a 15-1 decision to West Side on Saturday.
“We knew we had it,” Moore said. “We didn’t get off to a good start, but we finished it.”
Coomer said slow starts have been consistently troubling for West Side in the postseason.
“It seems like once we get through the lineup one time, we get rolling a little bit, and our subs are doing a great job coming off the bench and playing their roles,” he said. “But we’ve got to get better starts. You don’t always know if you’re going to snap out of it. We’ve been fortunate for two or three games where we have snapped out of it, but as a coach, you like the easy way. You don’t want the hard way.”
Avery was part of last year’s 11-year-old all-star unit. He believes this season’s squad has what it takes to earn the program’s 10th 12-year-old state title in the last 12 seasons.
“We’ve got a lot better pitching,” Avery said. “We all got stronger and came to hit. We’ve got better hitting coaches.”
Lebanon is headed into the offseason after finishing as district runner-up for the third time in five years. Lebanon played a competitive 11-4 final with West Side in 2013, then got blown out 22-1 in 2014.
“I feel great about this team,” Kelby Bittman said. “We were incredibly proud of how far each one of them has come.”
West Side 012-7—10-9-1
WP — Braedyn Moore; LP — Will Bittman; HR — WS: Davis Avery 2, Lake Cundiff, Blake Detherage