NUTTER FORT, W.Va. — As the three-time defending Class A state champion, Moorefield’s baseball program is no stranger to meaningful games late in the season.
So while the Yellow Jackets have endured an up-and-down 2022 season, there was no panic on their part in advance of the first game against Notre Dame in the best-of-three Region II series. With Bryce Hines pitching, it was easy to see why.
Hines worked a complete game three-hitter over 108 pitches and held the Irish scoreless over the first six frames to key Moorefield to a 3-1 victory at Frank Loria Memorial Field.
“Bryce did a great job tonight. he battled all game,” Moorefield acting head coach Scott Stutler said. “He’s our go-to pitcher right now. He’s a senior and he battles. He’s a tough kid and you know what you’re going to get with him on the mound. This is playoff baseball and you’re going to have to win 3-1 type games and close games to have a chance at the end.”
The victory puts the Yellow Jackets (17-14) one win away from a return trip to the Class A state tournament, which they’ll seek Tuesday when they look to finish off the Irish (17-10) at MHS.
Hines and Notre Dame starting pitcher Isaac Wolfe prevented the opposition from scoring over the first two innings, before Moorefield went on top for good in the third.
That came when Karson Reed scored on a wild pitch after he’d walked with one out, while singles from Hines and Alex Miller that inning marked the game’s first two hits.
Hines, who worked around a pair of base-on-balls in the second, retired the side in order in the third. The Yellow Jackets then gained control of the contest by scoring twice in the fourth.
Garrett Strickler led off with a double and immediately scored on Ryan McGregor’s triple, with the Yellow Jackets accounting for the game’s first two extra-base hits in consecutive at bats.
Later in the fourth, Reed’s two-out single allowed Moorefield to score its third run.
“We got some big hits when we needed them. You want to score more than three runs, but I’ll take a win any day,” Stutler said.
NDHS produced its first hit on Cole Goldizen’s leadoff single in the fifth. Goldizen moved up two bases on separate balks called against Hines, who kept the Irish off the scoreboard by striking out the side in that inning, including Anthony Rogers for the final out.
After retiring three straight Irish batters in the sixth, Hines ended the inning with 93 pitches.
“We have to swing the bat. In a regional game, we can’t sit there with the bat on our shoulders,” Irish coach Trenton Lehasky said. “The kid pitched a good game. He has a strong arm, but he didn’t have much off speed. You have to sit back and wait on that fastball and we didn’t do it.”
He then allowed the first two batters of the seventh to reach as Domenick Bombardiere singled and Tyler Marra drew a walk to bring the tying run to the plate.
After the first out of the seventh, the Irish scored their lone run on a play with a tradeoff the Yellow Jackets were gladly willing to accept. It featured Bombardiere coming home from third on a double steal that saw courtesy runner Brady Fagan thrown out at second.
Wolfe singled to prolong the game, but Hines got Garrick Iquinto-Jones to bounce out to third for the final out.
“Game 1 on the road, that’s a big win,” Stutler said. “We played through rain most of the game and after a long bus ride, so getting this one is big, but it’s a three-game series and we know it’s not over.”
Hines struck out eight and walked three.
Wolfe had seven strikeouts and four base-on-balls, while allowing five hits over six innings.
“He gets behind sometimes and throws a lot of pitches,” Lehasky said, “but he’s gutsy.”