Cabell Midland's Cole Tilley (20) comes in to score on a wild pitch as Winfield pitcher Zach Strong awaits the throw from his catcher.
WINFIELD - Cabell Midland jumped on Winfield early and never let up on offense Wednesday as the visiting Knights punched their ticket to the Class AAA state tournament with a 15-7 win in the Region 4 championship game.
"We got a few runs early, put some pressure on them by stealing bases, came back and got some more runs,'' said Midland coach Tracy Brumfield.
"Credit to them - they never quit. It was a 10-0 game and a lot of teams would have quit. A couple of years ago, we had that one-run win against Hurricane [in the regional semifinal] and I thought we were kind of flat in the Nitro game [in the regional final]. The biggest thing I worried about was sitting and waiting to play. I thought our kids came out loose and I thought at practice yesterday, they were loose."
Midland (23-10) scored twice in the first inning, three times in the second and plated five in the third to race out to a 10-0 lead, but the Generals (15-17) answered in their half of the third with a Jordan Clark three-run home run.
Knights starting pitcher Tyler Hayes went 41/3 innings with seven strikeouts and allowed four runs on two hits with four walks. Hayes, a left-hander, gave the Generals fits with a solid fastball and a slider that he showed the ability to throw from multiple arm angles.
"He's got a lot of movement on the ball. That ball just takes off. His slider, when you're from the side, you can't tell how much that ball does move," Brumfield said. "He threw that ball well and I don't know if he sat down too long that one inning. He came out and threw well, then he lost a little bit, then he threw well again."
Winfield got to Midland relief pitcher Derek Adkins for a run in the fifth inning to cut the lead to 10-5 when Bear Bellomy doubled and was driven in on a Bryan Bosley single.
The Knights, however, added three insurance runs in the sixth inning on five singles off Winfield pitcher Dana Harper (who started the game and came back in to pitch in the fourth). An error, another single, two walks and a sacrifice fly brought two more runs around in the seventh to push Midland's lead back to 10 runs at 15-5.
The Generals used five different pitchers (including Harper twice) and committed five errors. As a team, they walked nine batters.
"It didn't go according to plan, that's for sure," Winfield coach Will Isaacs said. "We played well at the end of the season, but pitching is the key. When they had 10 runs, they only had three RBIs."
Winfield added two runs in the bottom of the seventh but Adkins struck out Derek Whiteside to end the game and start the celebration for Cabell Midland.
Despite finishing with a losing record, Winfield has made the regional final two straight years. The Generals lost to eventual state runner-up Nitro in the 2012 Region 4 title game.
"To build a program, I think you've got to have high expectations every year," Isaacs said. "We don't want to just have a team - we want to have a program."
The Knights face the winner of today's Riverside-Woodrow Wilson Region 3 final on May 31 in the Class AAA semifinals at Appalachian Power Park.
It will be Midland's third trip to the state tournament under Brumfield with one appearance in the championship game (2006 against South Charleston). The Knights' lone state championship came in 2003.
Reach Tom Bragg at email@example.com.