West Virginia (Barboursvile) avoids elimination in Little League regional
WARNER ROBINS, Ga. - There was no pity party from West Virginia after dropping into the losers bracket of the Southeast Regional Little League Baseball Championship on a lopsided opening loss to Virginia.
“We were a little down on ourselves yesterday,” said Jack Eastone, the losing pitcher in Friday’s 12-5 defeat. “But we knew we had to bounce back. We had to come in today with a little more confidence and energy.”
The age 10-12 state champions from Barboursville showed it Saturday against Tennessee, shaking off the nerves of a win-or-go-home situation in the game’s key moments to pull out a 2-1 victory. Eastone delivered in the clutch at the plate and pitchers Jared Nethercutt and Carson Carter worked around baserunners in every inning but one to help West Virginia remain alive in the double-elimination tournament.
Eastone knocked in West Virginia’s runs with a two-out triple in the third inning. Nethercutt, the starting and winning pitcher, came out after reaching the 85-pitch limit with two outs in the fifth inning. Carter got the last four outs for the save.
Tennessee left six runners on base in the game and five were in scoring position at the end of the inning. The club from East Nashville scored its lone run on an error in the fourth inning, and saw its chance to tie wiped out on an appeal play when a runner on third base left too early on a potential sacrifice fly.
“I was nervous, especially the last couple of innings,” said Nethercutt, who scattered four hits, walked two, hit one batter and struck out six. “I just tried to calm down and throw strikes and let the defense make plays.”
Both Nethercutt and Carter saw action in Friday’s loss in relief of Eastone.
Carter took over for Nethercutt with runners on second and third and got the final out of the fifth inning on one pitch. In the sixth, he allowed a one-out single but ended it with a strikeout and a ground out.
“They came through the district and state in some stressful games, so they’d been there some,” West Virginia manager Daniel Nida said of his pitchers. “They did well again.”
West Virginia managed just five hits, all coming with two outs. However, two came back-to-back in the third inning against loser Grant Snider, who relieved starter Bryson King at the top of the inning.
Landon Nida drew a one-out walk before Snider got Carter on a fly ball to right field. Cooper Cummings smacked a single to left field, bringing up Eastone, one of King’s four strikeout victims in his two innings of work.
“I felt like we needed a hit or we were gonna lose,” the lean right-handed hitter said. “I was nervous, but I knew what I needed to do.”
Eastone pounded a pitch that whistled past left fielder Max Weyenberg to the fence, easily plating Nida and Cummings.
“Down here, you get a couple of hits back-to-back and you can make something happen,” the West Virginia manager said. “Sometimes that’s all it takes.”
Tennessee struck back in the fourth inning when Nethercutt walked Hudson Barton leading off and Evan Bell followed with a double. Nolan Maloney then reached on an error allowing Barton to score and moving Bell to third.
Nethercutt then got a pair of fly outs, the second resulting in a double play to end the inning when West Virginia successfully appealed that Bell left base early. Bell had easily beaten the throw from right field to apparently tie the game.
“I heard the (Tennessee) coach yelling, ‘Get back, get back,’ so I figured he (the runner) left early,” said the elder Nida, whose team plays either Alabama or South Carolina at 1 p.m. Sunday. “I was ready to challenge (for replay), but the boys paid attention to it and made the proper appeal. Give them credit for that one.”
Cummings, who tossed a no-hitter in the state title game, will start Sunday’s game. West Virginia will have to go down its roster of hurlers after that with Nethercutt, Eastone and Carter ineligible because of Little League’s rest rules.
“He can throw strikes and let the defense play the ball,” the West Virginia manager said. “We’ll be OK.”