Herbert Hoover's Zach Mullins helped himself pick up the win, knocking in a run in every time up at the plate.
Herbert Hoover's demise last year was in large part due to a power outage with its hitting, as it averaged just four runs in a pair of sectional losses.The Huskies seem determined not to let that happen again.Zach Mullins worked five innings to get the victory, homered and drove in one run in each of his four at-bats Monday to lead Hoover to a 9-3 victory over Poca in a Class AA Region 4 semifinal at Jeff Holliday Field in Falling Rock.The win sends the Huskies (25-8), the No. 5 team in the Gazette's state ratings, into the regional finals Wednesday at No. 9 Wayne (18-13), which rallied late for a 6-5 victory over defending champion Chapmanville in the other half of Region 4.Hoover rapped out 10 hits against a pair of productive Poca pitchers, led by Mullins (3-for-4), Zach Wright (2-for-3, triple, two RBIs), Corey Bird (2-for-4, three runs scored) and Cody Bowen, who stroked a two-run double during a four-run uprising in the bottom of the third that quickly put the Huskies up 6-0."It seems like tonight we got something to fall,'' said Hoover coach Brian Young. "The first two games [against Poca], it seemed like we were hitting the ball right at people and tonight we had a little luck on our side. We got the ball to fall, and they made a couple errors.''Mullins (4-3) started and went five innings, allowing four hits and three runs - all coming on Jake Payne's three-run round-tripper to left centerfield in the top of the fourth.
"He pitched real well,'' Young said. "He did everything we asked him to. He kept them off-balance and got ahead in the count some.''Mullins' effort probably means Tristan Fields (6-1, 62 strikeouts in 471/3 innings) will get the call against Wayne on Wednesday as Hoover tries to get back to the state tournament. The Huskies won it all under Kevin Buckner in 2007."It's insane,'' Mullins said. "It's hard to believe it.''
Hoover was scuffling along at the start of the month, losing four games out of five heading into the season's home stretch, a concern for Young and his coaching staff.But since that time, the Huskies have reeled off seven straight wins behind a solid offensive attack, averaging a shade under nine runs in that time. They've also racked up 10 or more runs in a game 13 times this season."As a team, we've realized that we need to play with a lot of heart,'' Mullins said, "and not play selfish baseball. Play the game we know how to play - the way we started playing, the way we were at the beginning of the season and the middle of the season. Now it's coming together for us.''Hoover got hits from six different spots in the lineup against the two best pitchers for the Dots.Sophomore Jake Payne, who brought a 4-3 record and 1.30 ERA into the game, went just 22/3 innings, giving up five hits and six runs, though four of them were unearned - all four of the runs Hoover scored in the third.
Payne was relieved by freshman Noah Frampton (8-3, 1.70), who allowed five hits in his 31/3 innings. He was also struck in the back of the leg by a wicked shot off the bat of Wright in the bottom of the sixth. Frampton had troubling standing and walking at first, but was eventually able to resume pitching.The No. 7 Dots (21-13) managed just five hits off Hoover's Mullins and Clayton Edens, and were no-hit for 31/3 innings."We couldn't get hits,'' said Poca coach Gene Estel, "and they hit it where we weren't. It all comes back to timely hitting, and we didn't have that. We had 11 runners left on base - eight of them the last three innings. You can't win many ballgames like that, especially when a team hits like they are."I give our kids a lot of credit. They didn't get down [after it was 6-0]. They stayed in it. I hate it for all of us [that we lost], but especially for our three seniors. All of them played above what we expected coming into the season. But we have a bunch of young kids coming back, so there are some positives to it.''Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org