ASHTON, W.Va. — They played well enough to win, but the Hannan baseball team ultimately came up short Monday night following a 5-4 setback to Calhoun County in the opening game of the Class A Region 4, Section 3 tournament being held at the Craigo Athletic Facility in Mason County.
The Wildcats (4-8-1) — who were the visitors on the scoreboard despite being the host school for the tournament — never led in the contest, but the guests overcame a pair of late deficits by tying things up in the sixth and seventh frames.
The host Red Devils (6-11), however, received a walk-off single from Alan Matheny in the bottom of the seventh as Dylan Heiney scored from third — giving CCHS the opening round one-run decision.
Calhoun County took an early 1-0 advantage as Seth Moore lifted a sacrifice fly to centerfield that allowed Matheny to score in the bottom of the second. The hosts followed with another run in the third as Matheny singled home Caden Hicks for a 2-0 lead.
HHS countered in the top half of the fourth as Cole Poore led the frame off with a double, then advanced to third on a wild pitch. Corey Hudnall struck out for the second out in the inning, but Poore appeared to think that it was the third out of the innings and started toward the dugout.
After realizing there were only two outs in the inning, Poore hustled back to third base as a pickoff throw got past the CCHS third baseman. Poore sprinted home on the errant throw and would have been out at the plate, but the ball trickled away from the catcher as he slid in safely for a 2-1 deficit.
The Red Devils answered in their half of the fourth as Moore led the inning off by being hit by a pitch, then stole second and third before scoring on a sacrifice fly to center — giving the Red and White a 3-1 cushion after four complete.
The score stayed that way until the top of the sixth as back-to-back two-out singles by Poore and Isaiah Burgess gave Hannan baserunners, then Hudnall followed with a two-RBI double that tied the contest at three.
CCHS, however, countered with a run in the home half of the sixth as Devan McKown led things off by being hit by a pitch and later scored on a groundout by Cole Ritchie, giving the Red Devils a 4-3 edge headed into the seventh.
James Bledsoe provided the spark that Hannan needed in its final at-bat after leading off the seventh with a solo shot to left field, tying the game at four.
Dustin Holcomb started the Calhoun County half of the seventh with a single, then Heiney entered as a pinch runner. Heiney went on to steal second and third base, then Matheny blooped a single into shallow centerfield with nobody out — allowing Heiney to cross home plate with the game-winning run.
With the setback, Hannan returns to postseason action Tuesday when it faces the defending Class A state champion Wahama White Falcons at 5:30 p.m.
The Wildcats outhit CCHS by a slim 8-7 overall margin and also committed the only error in the contest. The Red Devils stranded 10 runners on base, while the guests left two on the bags.
It was a very tough night for second-year HHS coach Tad Greathouse, who watched his troops put together a pair of inspiring late-inning rallies before ultimately having it amount to nothing.
But, like any good coach can do, Greathouse also found a lot of pride in the resiliency that his team showed down to the final pitch.
“You know, the boys fought hard all game. We hit the ball well and made plays when we had to, especially with that big home run late in the seventh,” Greathouse said. “Ultimately, the cards fell where they did and we just happened to be on the wrong side of the outcome. Nonetheless, I’m proud of my boys and the effort that they gave. I couldn’t have asked for much more out of them than what I got tonight.
“I know the next one won’t be any easier against a great program like Wahama, but I also think we learned a little bit about ourselves tonight. It’s never over until it’s over and there are no givens in baseball. Defending state champions or not, we’re coming out to give them our best effort and play our hearts out until the very end — and we’ll let the cards fall how they will.”
Hicks was the winning pitcher of record after allowing four earned runs and eight hits over seven innings while striking out eight.
Burgess suffered the tough-luck loss after surrendering five earned runs, seven hits, six walks and three hit batsmen over six-plus frames while fanning six.
Poore led Hannan with three hits and two runs scored, followed by Bledsoe with two safeties. Burgess, Hudnall and Junior Morehart also had a hit apiece in the setback.
Hudnall led HHS with two RBIs and Bledsoe also had one RBI. Bledsoe and Burgess also scored a run apiece for the Wildcats.
Matheny led Calhoun County with three hits and two RBIs, while McKown added two safeties to go along with a RBI and a run scored. Ritchie and Holcomb also had a hit each for the victors.
Ritchie, Moore and McKown each knocked in a run. Moore, McKown, Hicks and Heiney also scored a run apiece for the Red and White.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.