WAYNE — In an elimination game on the road against a team it had already lost to three times, Sissonville already had its back pressed firmly against the wall.
Falling into an immediate 5-0 hole surely didn’t help the Indians.
Host Wayne (28-3) piled up those runs in the bottom of the first inning, needing only three hits and taking advantage of two Sissonville walks and an error.
That would be a theme all Wednesday night as the Pioneers scored four more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning on four Indians miscues and locked down a 9-1 win, wrapping up a Class AA Region 4 Section 1 championship.
Wayne made last year’s state tournament and bowed out in the semifinals to PikeView. With a bloated Class AA field after reclassification, the Pioneers took a first step toward a return trip on Wednesday.
“They’ve got a good team and they battled us and put the ball in play — we’ve had some close games with them,” Wayne coach Todd Ross said. “We knew we had to come out focused. The small-ball game has been with us, we knew we could count on it, and getting a couple of bunts down early helps us and when we bunt we win.”
Luke Cassidy had the game’s first hit for Wayne with a one-out bunt single in the first. Brad Sharp drew a walk behind him and pitcher Dakota McCloud knocked a single into right field to bring Cassidy home and get the Pioneers on the board.
Cayden Ross then put down a bunt and a throw home to try to get Sharp was late, allowing another run and another baserunner.
Cody Noe walked next with Jeremiah Milum landing the inning’s biggest blow with a two-run single to left field.
All of that was plenty for McCloud, who was handcuffing a familiar foe yet again. McCloud yielded just an unearned run in the complete-game effort, scattering seven hits, striking out five and, maybe most importantly, walking none.
“He’s been our workhorse,” Ross said. “I think that’s the sixth time he’s thrown against them in the last two years, so he’s familiar. He does a good job of keeping the ball down and letting his defense work behind him. He keeps his pitch count down and that helps him when he throws.”
The Indians got on the board in the top of the fifth as Cayd Snyder smacked an RBI single to left field to plate Scott Soblit, who’d doubled with two outs in the frame.
That made the score 5-1 but the Indians imploded in the bottom half of the frame, allowing four Wayne runs to come home on only one hit with three more walks and four more errors leading to most of the damage.
Sissonville outhit Wayne 7-6, but mistakes and free passes proved to be the difference.
“When you face a pitcher like him you can’t afford to go down early,” Sissonville coach Chad Carpenter said. “We strung a hit here or there and we needed to string two or three hits together and that didn’t happen.
“Their confidence is high. They are expecting to be there and that makes a big difference, and plus they’re a senior-laden team.”
Cassidy had Wayne’s lone multi-hit effort, going 2 for 4 and adding a double in the fourth inning.
Snyder went 2 for 3, as did Michael Pinkerton for the Indians (17-11), with Pinkerton adding a double.