Midland wins classic duel
HURRICANE, W.Va. - Another classic regional game between Cabell Midland and Hurricane ended in another agonizing loss for the Redskins.
Seth Kinker fired a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts and Jacob Beahrs slapped an RBI single in the top of the eighth inning Monday evening to lead the Knights to a 1-0 victory over No. 1 Hurricane in the Class AAA Region 4 semifinals before an estimated crowd of 400 at Lola Meeks Memorial Field.
The win sends Midland (22-10), the No. 6 team in the Gazette's state ratings, into the regional finals at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Winfield.
Kinker, a junior, issued no walks and outdueled Hurricane sophomore J.T. Rogoszewski, who pitched a five-hitter with nine strikeouts and two walks (one intentional), allowing an unearned run. Both right-handers threw 95 pitches.
"I kept the ball down all night,'' Kinker said. "They just kept drilling it into the ground or they struck out.
"I knew if they were going to hit it, I had the team behind me. If I get a ground ball, I know they're going to field it. If I get a popup, I knew they're going to get it. And I'd get a strikeout here and there. It was just location tonight. I worked down and they pounded it into the ground.''
Neither team advanced a runner to third base until the top of the eighth, when Midland took advantage of a throwing error by Rogoszewski, who fielded Cole Tilley's one-out grounder to the side of the mound and fired wildly to first, allowing Tilley to reach second.
Eric Wooten dropped down a sacrifice bunt, moving Tilley to third. Beahrs, the Knights' leadoff man, then stroked a single that fell just inside the right-field line to score Tilley with the game's only run.
"We preached to them all year,'' said Midland coach Tracy Brumfield, "that when you get in situations like this, it's like football. If you can only run the ball, they're going to put nine in the box, and you're done.
"You've got a guy like [Rogoszewski] throwing, you've got to find some other way to get offense, and we put down two, three pretty good bunts . . . You've got to be able to find something else if the bats aren't working that day to move on, to get past the round, because you've got to face guys like this. I knew it was going to be a seven-inning game or extra-inning game today. I knew it.''
It marked the third time in four years Midland beat Hurricane (25-5) in a tight regional semifinal - the Knights prevailed 2-1 in 2011 and 6-2 in nine innings in 2010.
"I thought our kids came to play,'' said Redskins coach Brian Sutphin. "They were in the moment. They were focused on their job. I'm a little bit in shock, to be honest with you. At the end of the day, we struck out more than we've struck out all year, and a lot of that has to do with [Kinker].''
Rogoszewski (6-2, 0.72 ERA), who held the best numbers on Hurricane's deep pitching staff, matched Kinker zero for zero on the scoreboard until his wide throw in the top of the eighth. Before that, Rogoszewksi excelled in the field, handling four assists and three putouts - including a nifty pair of 3-1 groundouts, working with first baseman Riley Metz, and started a sharp 1-6-3 double play on an attempted sacrifice bunt in the second.
Hurricane also caught two runners trying to swipe second and Rogoszewski's wide throw ended as the game's lone error for either team.
"Obviously he deserved a much better fate,'' Sutphin said of Rogoszewski. "When you're the home team and you throw seven zeroes up there . . . He's distraught. In his mind, he gave up the game-winning hit and gave up the throw that put the kid in scoring position but, shoot, he was excellent from Pitch 1.
"We didn't have many chances, but we had a couple and we didn't execute. They did. They got one crack at a runner in scoring position and they got a ball to fall and we didn't. Beahrs got the hit and that's exactly how we had him played - to push it to the right side. He put the ball in play and it falls 5 feet inside the line. And that's baseball.''
Hurricane managed just six baserunners all night - singles by Alexander Dunham in the third and Zach Pate to lead off the eighth and four hit batsmen by Kinker. Three times the Redskins got a man to second, but Kinker ended two of those innings with strikeouts and got a grounder to third on the other.
"It's two big rivals,'' Brumfield said, "and it's like this almost every year. They've got a heck of a team. It's not about who wanted it more or anything like that. It's just two great teams and we're lucky. We played solid. They did, too, but we got the break, and that was the biggest thing, getting that break.''
Sutphin felt like bigger things awaited his squad, which held the state's No. 1 ranking most of the season.
"It's just frustrating,'' he said, "because this was a fun group to coach. Not one guy in that lockerroom wanted it to end. They're hard workers and good teammates. There was no selfishness and there were no guys wanting to be the hero, you know?''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.