BECKLEY, W.Va. - Woodrow Wilson didn't need a hit parade to continue its march through the postseason.The Flying Eagles executed to perfection a pair of squeeze bunts, capitalized on a pair of Riverside errors, three walks and a hit batsman and rode the momentum from a three-run home run en route to a 7-1 win over the Warriors in the Class AAA Region 3 title game on a rainy Thursday night.Woodrow (20-10) needed just three hits to manufacture its seven runs and clinch its first state tournament appearance since 2007. That team defeated Nitro in the semifinals before falling to Jefferson in the state championship game.Woodrow coach Mark Daniel said this year's team has the potential to be even better."Better pitching and better defense [than the 2007 team]," Daniel said. "We were a very good hitting team that year, but we bunted like crazy that year, we could bunt really well. We had tremendous team speed. If you look at the Nitro game, we had 13 fly outs to our center fielder."This team's about the same. We have really good team speed."That bunting and speed was on display all night Thursday, especially in the bottom of the fourth inning.Daniel Rose and Cole Williams dropped down perfect back-to-back squeeze bunts to bring in Dakota Bowyer and Jacoby Webb. Riverside pitcher Cam Norris tried both times to get the out at the plate but Bowyer and Webb both slid in ahead of Riverside catcher Trevor Rumberg's tags. Webb had already drove in Hunter Halstead with a double in the inning and the three-run outburst pushed Woodrow's 3-0 lead to 6-0 and the pressure of that deficit weighed on the Riverside bats the rest of the night.
"We came out and I thought our plate approaches were really good the first three innings," Riverside coach Chris Hawkins said. "We had runners on every inning the first three innings and we couldn't get them in. They got up 3-0 and I think we kind of panicked a little bit. We tried to battle through it and we kind of panicked a little bit and tried to do too much at the plate and we overwhelmed ourselves."Indeed, Riverside loaded the bases in the first inning and had at least one runner in scoring position in three of the first four frames but could never come up with the big hit.As the lead grew and the pressure mounted, the Warriors' stressed at-bats played right into Woodrow pitcher Hunter Greco's hands.Greco was dealing all night, punching out 11 hitters while walking just one and yielding just one run in the seventh on a bases-loaded wild pitch while striking out Derik Chestnut.
Norris did the same thing to start the bottom of the third, allowing Webb to reach base with no outs in a scoreless game despite swinging and missing badly at a third strike in the dirt.After Rose sacrificed him to second, Williams grounded out, putting Norris and the Warriors on the verge of getting out of trouble.
But Hawkins chose to issue Greco an intentional walk, putting two on for Woodrow's No. 3 hitter Logan Wriston.That move turned out to be a game-turning mistake as Wriston pounded the second pitch he saw deep over the left-field wall, giving the Flying Eagles their second hit, their first lead and momentum for good. It was Wriston's first home run of the season after hitting four last year."He's batting third for a reason," Daniel said. "He's a heck of a hitter. He's been sick for two weeks, which has put him in a big slump with his average, but he's a quality kid.""It was a curveball away and I just swung and hit the ball," Wriston said. "You just have to clear your mind and focus on the pitch. It was definitely payback for disrespecting me."Hawkins said the intentional walk was more about matchups than any form of disrespect.
"We had not gotten Greco out in two games," Hawkins said. "With a base open - we had a really good scouting report, the Wriston kid only got one base hit off us in two games so we wanted to go after him. Wriston stepped up and made it hurt."To Hawkins' point, Greco had a 4-for-4 day against Norris in the teams' second matchup of the regular season, a 5-3 win for Woodrow on April 29.Greco singled with one out in the first inning for the Eagles' only other hit in the game.Chaz Davis had the only multi-hit effort on the night, going 2 for 3 with a double for Riverside. His double was the only extra-base hit for the Warriors (13-16) and he also scored their only run.Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, email@example.com, or follow him at twitter.com/Rpritt.