The biggest series ever to take place for Union County came down to a deciding game three and ended in dramatic fashion as West Union defeated the defending 1A North Half Champion Ingomar Falcons to advance to their first ever state championship Monday night.
Ashley Russell’s squad took the 1-0 series lead after last Thursday’s 7-1 victory at home. A three-run home run by Taylor English set the pace in that first game, as Devin Brock held the Falcons to only two hits.
Ingomar responded on their home field, taking the 8-1 win behind the pitching of their ace, Josh Hodges. The senior had 11 strikeouts while only allowing six hits in the dominating win. Hodges was also responsible for two of the Falcons three home runs in the game.
“We did a good job in game two as far as coming out with good intensity,” Ingomar head coach Andy Wilbanks said. “We were throwing strikes early in the game. That’s huge when you come out and throw strikes and don’t get behind pitchers because you have options then.”
With game three set to move back to West Union, Mother Nature postponed the deciding showdown until Monday night at Pontotoc High School.
Ingomar jumped on the board first after a two-run homer by John Logan made it 2-0 in the second. Logan plated Josh Conlee, who reached earlier in the inning on a single.
The Eagles were able to respond in the bottom half of the inning, as a passed ball scored Hunter McQuary, who hit a leadoff single.
The pitching on both sides stepped up for the next two innings, Will Basil was able to get the Eagles out of trouble in the third, striking out Conlee after walking three straight batters to load the bases with two outs. Hodges was in a similar position, as singles by Brock and Bo Garrett placed runners on first and second with one out before Hodges recorded his fourth strikeout, then had an easy out to first to end the inning.
West Union would take the lead in the fifth, as Garrett was hit by a pitch with two outs before an error by Austin Gregory behind the plate placed Caleb English on base. One of the biggest hits of the night came from McQuary who hit a two RBI double, making it 3-2 in favor of the Eagles.
Neither team could get anything going in the sixth, and down to their final three outs, Ingomar got to work offensively, as Preston Broom and Hodges were both walked with one out, and a single by Tanner McCollum scored Broom, tying the game. Basil again stepped up and struck out the next two batters, getting out of the inning and leaving runners stranded at first and third.
Three straight outs by the Eagles sent the game into extra innings, as Hodges recorded his 10th and 11th strikeouts of the game.
Ingomar threatened in the top of the eighth, as Matt Purvis had a leadoff double, and a walk by Ben Foshee placed runners at first and second. West Union’s defense stepped up, as Basil had a strikeout then a line drive to shortstop ended the inning.
Caleb English started the bottom of the eighth and right after that, McQuary hit a single, which was bobbled at third. English continued to run, and with a throw back to third short, English ran home, ending the game and earning West Union their first ever trip to Pearl for the state championship.
“We did a lot of praying,” an emotional Ashley Russell said after the game. “Our kids have great character, and they always believed in what we were trying to do, and it paid off.”
McQuary ended the night 3-for-4, with his last two hits being the difference maker in the game.
“He’s been doing it for us for three years now,” Russell said of McQuary. “There’s no one I would rather have at the plate, and he came through for us all night long and all year long. Great job.”
Basil allowed three runs off five hits with 13 strikeouts but credited his teammates, not himself, for the win.
“It was my fault in the seventh inning,” Basil said. “I should have just shut them down and we would have won, but my teammates helped me out and got hits for me. I owe it all to them.”
Conlee led the Falcons offense, going 2-for-4, while Hodges allowed five hits with 11 strikeouts. Ingomar had several chances to take the game, but missed opportunities hurt the Falcons in the final two innings.
“They did a good job tonight, and they got the job done,” Wilbanks said. “I thought the game was gift wrapped for us to take in two straight innings, and we didn’t get the job done.”
Both coaches commented on the uniqueness of the match-up, as both are friends who both coached under New Albany’s Kurt Fowler.
“Coach Wilbanks and I are great friends, and I think the world of him,” Russell said. “Ingomar is a great team, and I think that’s what makes this so special is because we know we beat a great team.”
“It’s great for Union County,” Wilbanks added. “There was a huge crowd here tonight. Coach Russell and I are good friends, and I wish him the best in the state championship. That’s two good teams from Union County and big rivals. Union County baseball is good right now, and hopefully we can keep that trend going.”
West Union will take on St. Aloysius in the 1A State Championship, starting on Thursday at 1 p.m., with game two set for 7 p.m. Friday night.