Moorefield didn’t exactly follow the typical script, but the story still had a happy ending for the Yellow Jackets.
Thomas Williams, the team’s No. 9 hitter, had a pair of RBI singles, including the tie-breaking run in the bottom of the fourth and Blake Watts came through with four innings of scoreless relief Sunday as Moorefield earned a repeat Class A championship with a 4-2 win against Charleston Catholic at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston.
“I don’t know how it’s supposed to feel, but it feels great,’’ said Moorefield coach Wade Armentrout. “We’ve never done this before [repeat titles] in baseball, but these guys are fantastic young men and great to coach. I’m blessed to be part of it. They just do things unselfishly. It’s been that way all year long.’’
The Yellow Jackets (27-11) had to come from behind twice in the early innings against the Irish (27-11), but a pair of unearned runs in the fourth proved to be the decisive margin as they broke away from a 2-all tie.
Williams singled home Grant Keller for a 3-2 Jackets lead, then Jayden Moore later scored on an infield throwing error for a big insurance run.
From there, the Jackets relied on Watts, a big left-hander who provided a different look for Catholic from starter Derek Hoyt. Watts struck out four of the first seven batters he faced and worked four scoreless innings in all, permitting four hits, fanning four and walking none.
“I was excited to come in,’’ Watts said. “I was ready. I threw in the bullpen and it felt really good. I had control of all my pitches.
“It was up in the air [when I would come in]. We were going to stay with Hoyt as long as we could and coach said I would be best when we made the switch. It probably was hard for me coming in from the bullpen because normally I’m a starter, so I wanted to make sure I was ready.’’
Charleston Catholic took a pair of leads against Hoyt, getting single runs in the first and second on RBI hits from Will Strickland and Marshall Pile. The Irish got five hits and six baserunners in all in three innings against Hoyt, prompting the Jackets’ interesting early call to the bullpen.
“It wasn’t really planned that we were going to go to it that early,’’ Armentrout said, “but we did know we were going to have to go that route. It just looked like we needed to change the pace a little bit. They have some very good left-handed hitters, so we thought maybe we’d change it up at the end of the batting order. That’s how this team is: They’re unselfish and everybody knows their role.’’
The Irish looked primed to score in the top of the sixth when Izak Young singled with Connor Blakley at second. Blakley, however, was thrown out at home to end the inning by right fielder Moore. It was the second unfortunate twist for the Irish on the day.
Moorefield began its tie-breaking rally in the fourth when Keller struck out but reached on a throwing error by Strickland as the ball got away at home. Moore followed with a double, Williams with his second RBI single to make it 3-2 and Moore scored moments later on an infield error.
“We knew it was going to be a seven-inning dogfight with Moorefield,’’ said Irish coach Bill Mehle, who was seeking his 500th career win, “and it came down to who blinked first. I guess we blinked in the fourth inning and they did not in seven innings of play. So hats off to them.
“We knew they’d play a solid defensive game, and they did. We hit some balls hard that they made some good plays on. We just didn’t get one to find grass when we needed it.’’
Thomas Blaydes went the distance for Catholic despite throwing 29 pitches in relief in Saturday’s 10-4 semifinal win against Wheeling Central. Blaydes allowed eight hits and four runs versus Moorefield, but just two were earned. He struck out five and walked none.
“I can’t say enough about Thomas Blaydes,’’ Mehle said, “who pitched a gem after pitching 29 pitches yesterday. He took care of his arm yesterday and came back and threw a complete game for us, and that’s just being a hard-nosed competitive young man. Hats off to him.’’
For Catholic, Parker Ross and Blaydes each had two hits as the Irish outhit Moorefield 9-8. Left fielder Marc Spiegel made a pair of clutch defensive plays to keep the Jackets off the board perhaps even more, including a drifting catch deep in the corner against the wall in the fourth with Lane Ours batting.
Watts also had two hits for Moorefield, ripping an RBI single in the first. The Jackets found themselves down 1-0 and 2-1 early against the Irish.
Charleston Catholic has now played in the state finals four times since 2011, winning two titles. Moorefield has captured four crowns since 2002.
“We hope to match up with them about 365 days from now,’’ Mehle said with a smile, “and we’ll start to get to work on that.’’