The atmosphere was like one of a postseason game, as West Union and Myrtle battled for a spot in the 1A playoffs Tuesday night. With Ingomar already securing a spot and watching in the stands, the Eagles and Hawks were in a must win situation. A Myrtle win would give them the 2-1A division title and send Ingomar on the road in the first round, and a West Union win would give the Falcons their fourth straight division title and the Eagles the number two seed.
“All three of us coaches have talked about this before, it’s going to be a pretty good team that’s going to be left at home,” Myrtle head coach Robert Gordon said. “For us, it coming down to if you lose you stay at home, if you win you win the division, that’s very unique. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anything like that.”
The Hawks went into Tuesday night’s game riding a seven game win streak, having not lost a division game since falling to West Union earlier this month. West Union was looking for one more dramatic win to boost them into the playoffs, but were faced with adversity early on as starting pitcher Will Basil went out with a shoulder injury after only facing three batters.
“You hate to see what that, and you don’t want that to happen to anyone, but when he went out, we knew they had another one,” Gordon said. “(Wesley) Jumper did a good job for several innings shutting us down. They have three really good pitchers, so none are easier than the other, so we knew it would be tough regardless.”
Jumper allowed only one run in that first inning, with Russ Yates scoring on a sacrifice play by Beau Cummings. The score would remain the same until Sid Beasley’s two RBI single in the fourth inning. Until that point, Jumper only allowed one Hawk hit in two innings.
“Wesley did a great job for us, and he’s improved all year long, so I felt that he could do good,” West Union head coach Ashley Russell said. “We were going to try to throw Devin (Brock) since he’s had the hot hand, but he had just thrown a lot of pitches against Ingomar, so he wasn’t able to go on that short amount of rest.”
West Union got on the board in the fifth, as a walk of Zak Jumper and a double by Drew Garrett put runners in scoring position for Brock. Brock reached base on an outfield error, allowing Jumper to score, and Luke Wait’s sacrifice play scored Garrett, cutting Myrtle’s lead to only one run.
Adam Baker’s double in the bottom half of the frame scored another Hawk run, but West Union rallied in the sixth to tie the game. Zak Jumper’s single scored one and after loaded the bases, Beau Cummings walked Brock to tie the game.
“First of all, Beau very good pitcher, one of best we’ve faced all year,” Russell said. “I knew for us to score we were going to have to battle, and we were able to do that in fifth and again in sixth inning. I felt pretty good about our chances, especially since they had seven, eight and nine coming up in their batting order.”
Austin Floyd stepped in for the Hawks in place of senior Josh Kennamore and led off the sixth with a double. Myrtle loaded the bases and regained the lead off an RBI single by Yates. Three more runs quickly came in during Jimel Judon’s at bat and Floyd came through with another clutch hit, a three run double, as the Hawks poured on eight runs in the inning.
“The first double was big because it was lead off and we needed someone on,” Gordon said. “They had already thrown two guys out, so we felt we needed someone to start out at second, so him leading off with a double was big because we didn’t have to waste an at bat trying to bunt him over. He came through again with another clutch hit. It’s a funny game because you can be a goat one day and a hero the next. He’s been batting well in JV, and he had his chance to come in for us tonight. His hard work has paid off.”
Down to their final three outs, West Union loaded the bases, but left runners stranded, giving the Hawks the division crown, a feat that seemed impossible earlier this month when Myrtle started division play 0-2.
“We knew after the second loss in a week that our backs were against the wall, and I told the kids then that we couldn’t lose another game in division, or else we’re out,” Gordon said. “I guess that was a challenge to them. My hats off to the kids because they responded to me after that second loss and they accepted the challenge. They’ve won eight straight division games to clinch the division.”
After reaching the state championship in 2009, West Union will miss the playoffs this year in a system that only allows only two teams in each division to advance to the postseason.
“I don’t think it’s right for it to be set up the way it is because I honestly believe our kids deserve to be in playoffs,” Russell said. “Ingomar and Myrtle got it done and they’re deserving of their playoff spots.”
Myrtle will host Shaw in the first round with Ingomar traveling to Greenville St. Joe next week.