West Hall High’s baseball team succumbed to a 3-2 loss in nine innings in Game 1 of a home doubleheader Friday against Franklin County, which cemented a series win for the Lions.
Franklin County (13-0, 6-0 7-AAA) notched a series sweep of the Spartans (8-6, 2-4) with a 9-0 victory in Game 2.
In the first game, the Lions struck first, hitting a double and a single in back-to-back at-bats in the top of the second inning.
West Hall responded after a leadoff single from Jeffery Jenkins in the bottom of the frame.
After the next two batters were retired, Kyle Reynolds, Erik Ayala and Tanner Ahmad delivered a trio of singles on successive pitches. Ahmad’s drove in Jenkins to tie the game.
The game then turned to a pitchers’ duel, which saw both teams struggle to score until the seventh inning.
Charlie Cochran tossed a full seven innings as the starting pitcher in the contest for West Hall, giving up a pair of runs (one earned) on five hits and six strikeouts.
“He pitched his butt off,” said West Hall coach Chad Sage. “Any pitcher that throws like that deserves a win. We didn’t have anybody that came through in a situation. We had plenty of situations to win the ballgame, we just didn’t get a hit and it never happened. We didn’t have anyone step up and get that big hit.”
Franklin starter Luke Roberts pitched 6.1 innings, allowing seven hits and just one earned run.
With the offenses failing to plate runs, Franklin County took what appeared to be the game-winning lead in the top of the seventh.
The Lions had two outs on the board after a strikeout and a pickoff at first. Then, Connor Williams was hit by a pitch and made his way to first base.
Williams subsequently stole second base on the first pitch to the next batter, was moved to third on a wild pitch and, on the third toss, was able to score on another wild pitch.
The batter at the plate when Williams scored flew out to the first baseman on the next pitch, ending the top half of the inning.
Struggling to score runs against the region’s best team, West Hall saw a glimmer of hope as Reynolds drilled a ground ball up the middle. The Lions’ shortstop committed the only error of the contest for either squad, leaving Reynolds safe at first.
A sacrifice bunt from Ayala moved Reynolds to second and forced a pitching change for Franklin County.
Ahmad was the first Spartan batter to face Evan Rumsey. The shortstop saw five pitches before taking the sixth up the middle for a single, driving Reynolds home.
Ahmad reached second base on the throw home and was moved to third, with two outs, on a groundball to the first baseman.
With the winning run 90 feet away, the Spartans failed to drive him in.
Again, in the eighth, West Hall had runners on second and third with two outs and couldn’t get the winning run across.
As the game turned to the ninth, the leadoff batter for Franklin County, who was 1 for 3 in his previous plate appearances, hit a 1-2 pitch over the right field fence to give the Lions a 3-2 lead.
Only one other batter reached base safely in the inning for Franklin County, but they were thrown out trying to steal second.
In the bottom of the ninth, Ahmad delivered another single before Cameron Shirley moved him over with a sacrifice bunt. With Ahmad in scoring position, the Spartans flew out and grounded out to bring the game to a close.
Reynolds entered in relief, allowing two hits, which included the home run.
Ahmad finished the contest 3 for 4 with a walk. He also drove in both of the Spartans’ runs in the contest.
Overall, West Hall outhit the Lions 10-7, but left 12 runners on base.
“Even going back to East Hall, in the second game (against East Hall), we left a lot on base,” Sage said. “We won 2-0 (against East Hall), but I think we left something like eight or 10 on in scoring position with less than two outs. We’ve worked on it this week and nothing’s really changed. A lot of people have to do some soul searching. We’re getting plenty of guys on. People are having good approaches, but if we’re not going to get it done in situations to get guys in, if we only have one run up there we’re still going to lose the game.”
In the second contest, Franklin County scored early and often to take its 9-0 victory over West Hall.
Williams scored in the first, second and sixth innings for the Lions.
The second inning was a big one offensively for Franklin County as they scored six runs on five hits and two errors in the frame.
The Lions totaled up 10 hits in the ballgame and held West Hall to two hits.
Next, the Spartans play at Fannin County on March 29 at 5:55 p.m.