Panthers claw to sectional crown » Local Sports » Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV
HINTON — Matt Hatfield expected the PikeView Panthers to win the sectional baseball title. He just needed a little help to make it happen.
He got plenty of it. Just ask PikeView first year head coach Josh Wyatt, whose Panthers won twice on Saturday, 9-8 and 10-0, to capture the Region III, Section 2 championship at Summers County.
“That was a total team effort, you can’t really point out one person in any of these games,” Wyatt said. “I know we had some big key hits from everybody, I think we got in two bases loaded jams there with no outs (in the second game) ...
“It was a total team effort, I can’t be more proud of the coaches and players.”
Hatfield had told teammate and best friend Ryan Farmer that the Panthers were going to win sectionals. He repeated that prediction after a sectional loss to the Bobcats on Wednesday.
“We played our first game and I told them losing is not an option,” Hatfield said. “Yes, we lost. I repeated it with a little bit more force that time and we came through.”
Trailing 8-3 in the top of the seventh inning, it appeared PikeView’s season was about to come to an end. No one told the Panthers.
“We were thinking we have got to fight our way through it and just give it everything we have got,” PikeView senior Nick Fletcher said, “so we can stay in it for hopefully more than one more game.”
They did just that. PikeView rallied for five runs in the seventh, and finished it off in the eighth for a 9-8 win, setting up the ‘if necessary’ game in sectional competition on a cloudy and overcast, but dry day.
“We’re on the cloud nine right now, to able to come up in a situation like that, these boys need it, and carry it into the championship game,” Wyatt said. “We still have to take care of business.”
They did. PikeView jumped on the shell-shocked Bobcats in the following game, defeating Summers County 10-0 to claim the Panthers’ first sectional title since 2006.
PikeView (9-21) will host Shady Spring in the Region III semifinals on May 24.
Meanwhile, Summers County (5-16) head coach Norman Farley was as stunned as his players. Among the issues leading 13 runners on base in the opener, and 10 more in the nightcap.
“We had every opportunity to win that game and kind of choked,” said Farley, after the Bobcats fell in the opener. “The last inning we were right where we wanted to be with their order as far as our pitching was concerned and we just choked and didn’t get it done.”
Summers County had defeated PikeView 16-13 Wednesday, thanks largely to three home runs and seven runs batted in by Taran McKinney, who took advantage of the short distance to the outfield fences.
That wouldn’t be the case in this one. Wyatt chose to intentionally walk McKinney in all eight of his plate appearances in the twinbill, including seven of those with runners on base. In the second inning of the first game he walked to first to load the bases.
The Bobcats returned the favor at times, intentionally walking Hatfield four times.
“You add those RBIs up and he does hit a home run — his pop flies go out of this field — if you add those RBIs we are not even in the game,” Wyatt said. “Until somebody proves me wrong that is what I feel like kept us in the ball game. He’s a heck of an athlete.”
Hatfield was doing the job on the mound in the opener. The two batters below him in the lineup — Jesse Pugh and Nick Bennett — combined for six hits and seven RBIs, staking the Bobcats a five-run lead.
Hatfield started for PikeView and went three innings before being relieved by Ryan Farmer, who wound up getting the improbable win. That proved key since Hatfield was able to return for the nightcap, and threw a complete game five-hit shutout.
A noticeably tired McKinney held an 8-3 lead with three outs to go, but Farley stuck with what Wyatt called ‘his horse’ and agreed with his reasoning.
“That is his horse, you go with him, you ride the horse that got you here as long as you can,” Wyatt said. “I don’t fault him, he struggled there a little bit and we were able to make the plays.”
Farley added, “He was getting tired, but the kids that were coming up in the bottom of the order that ended up walking, we should have had other things happen.”
PikeView started the seventh with Will Webster reaching on an error. After two walks to load the bases, Fletcher singled to center to narrow the margin to 8-5.
“I don’t know if I want to say it was the key hit, we got a lot of big hits, but that was a timely hit, I will say that,” Fletcher said.
A ground ball out from Greg Hogan made it 8-6 and Charles Riley followed with a single before McKinney got a second out with a strikeout. However, he walked ninth place batter, Jordan Hardin, to load the bases.
Farley replaced McKinney with James Carroll, and Hunter Moses smacked a single to score two runs, with a possible third run thrown out at the plate.
PikeView put it away in the eighth. Webster singled, Hatfield was intentionally and Farmer followed with single. Fletcher then pounded a single to center, and the Panthers were unlikely winners.
Farley was honest after the game, unsure how his Bobcats would react to shocking loss.
“I don’t know that we can, I have got an awfully young group of kids that have been through a lot of adversity,” Farley said. “We’re going to try find something to make them jar here in a minute, but I don’t know.”
He knew of what he spoke. Hatfield was stingy on the mound, while PikeView banged out 12 hits and took advantage of three Bobcats’ errors.
The Panthers used a six-run fourth to take a 9-0 lead — led by a two-run double by Riley, an RBI double from Hatfield and an RBI single from Webster. Summers County had chances, but left bases loaded in the fifth, and two on in each of the three previous frames.
“We had some errors and they scored a run here and there and we left I don’t know how many people on base again,” Farley said. “We just couldn’t get a timely hit when we needed it.”
Webster put the finishing touches on a memorable day in the fifth, singling, moving up a base when Hatfield was intentionally walked again and was running on a pitch that got away from Pugh, the Bobcats’ catcher.
As the ball bounced off a fence post and away from the Bobcats, Webster kept running, sliding in safely with the sectional-clinching winning run.
“It was just reaction,” Webster said. “I saw where the ball had gotten away and I was running on the play so I just went for it.”
After struggling to score runs during the day’s initial six innings, the Panthers brought home plenty over the next seven.
“This whole game was about timely hits, we weren’t hitting and we weren’t getting them,” Wyatt said. “That is baseball, you have got to love the sport to come up with timely hits like that at the end, what a way to end it.”
— Contact Brian Woodson at email@example.com
at Summers County High School
Summers County....220 002 20 — 8 14 2
PikeView.................300 000 51 — 9 9 3
Taran McKinney, James Carroll (7) and Jesse Pugh. Matt Hatfield, Ryan Farmer (4) and Hunter Moses. W—Farmer; L—Carroll. HR—none.
SC: Nick Bennett 3-4, double, 4 RBIs, Jesse Pugh 3-4, 3 RBIs, James Carroll 4-5; Zack Gill 2-5; Erik Lindsey, 3 runs; Briceson Huffman, 2 runs, Taran McKinney 5 walks; Parker Wheby 2 runs; PV: Hunter Moses 2-3, 2 RBI; Matt Hatfield 1-2, triple, 2 RBI, 2 runs; Nick Fletcher, 2-5, 3 RBI; Charles Riley 2-4; Will Webster 3 runs.
Summers County........000 00 — 0 5 3
PikeView.....................210 61 — 10 12 0
Hatfield and Moses. Parker Wheby, Zack Gill (4) and Pugh. W—Hatfield; L—Wheby. HR—none.
SC: Wheby 2-3, double; McKinney 3 walks; PV: Moses 3-3, 2 runs; Webster 2-3, 3 runs; Hatfield, 2-2, double, 2 RBIs,; Fletcher 3-3, double, 2 RBI; Riley 1-2, double, 2 RBI.