Hurricane rallies for 4-3 victory against George Washington in 10-inning MSAC semifinal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Class AAA No. 3 Hurricane couldn’t solve George Washington pitcher Bryson Hoff for the first six innings of Wednesday’s Mountain State Athletic Conference semifinal at GoMart Ballpark.

Fortunately for the Redskins, the top seed in the conference, they figured out a way to muster offense at the perfect time. Hurricane scored three seventh-inning runs to send the game to extra innings, before relief pitcher Weston Smith continued to hold the Patriots in check, setting the stage for Caden Johnson’s walk-off double that plated Damian Witty with the winning run in the home half of the 10th inning and gave Hurricane a 4-3 victory.

“Our guys believed in each other and that was evident at the end,” Hurricane head coach Brian Sutphin said.

The Redskins (20-6) will play Spring Valley in Thursday’s MSAC title game.

Hurricane’s seventh inning began with the only non intentional free pass Hoff issued, and Jayden Lester’s leadoff walk was followed by a Braden Sloan double. Dylan Bell brought the two runners in scoring position home with a sharp single, before Tyson Skinner laid down a successful sacrifice bunt that resulted in an error and allowed him to reach first.

After Huff struck out Payton Ocheltree for the first out, Evan Stover sent a fly ball to center that proved to be the second out, but was deep enough to bring Bell home with his team’s third and tying run.

“He ran out of gas and we made a couple mistakes,” GW head coach Mike Davis said. “You can’t make mistakes against really good teams. We’re in playoff baseball now, so the young excuse is not going to work. We have to play clean baseball. On the flip side of it, we proved we’re right there with the best in the state.”

The Redskins had an opportunity to win later that inning, but Johnson popped out to second base with the bases loaded, allowing No. 10 GW (16-8) to get the game to extras.

Neither team got a runner into scoring position in the eighth and ninth innings, with Redskins’ relief pitcher Smith holding the Patriots in check, while Hoff logged a scoreless eighth before having to come out as a result of his pitch count.

“He pitched a heck of a game. We hit some balls early that they good plays on,” Sutphin said. “He pitched a great game and we couldn’t get anything going. In the seventh, we fought and that helped get him to his pitch limit.”

Abe Fenwick threw a scoreless ninth for GW, which had a prime chance to regain the lead in the 10th. Chuck Kelly’s one-out single, combined with an error and a walk, allowed the Patriots to load the bases for cleanup hitter Joe Lively. But Smith hung tough, striking out Lively for the second out and getting Fenwick to hit a tapper just in front of the plate that resulted in a force out at home.

“There was a lot of back and forth that game,” Sutphin said.

Witty then worked a one-out walk in the home half of the 10th, and he moved to second on Fenwick’s throwing error on a pickoff attempt, before Johnson belted a double to the deepest part of the park to end it.

“You could see he was fighting balls off and really having a good at bat,” Sutphin said. “He finally got a ball that looked to be in the plate and hit it really hard. It’s a testament to him, because he came up with the bases loaded in his previous at bat and popped up to end the inning. I’m sure he was frustrated, but it’s a testament to him to let it go and not get too down on himself and he’s there at the end to pick his team up.”

A pair of first-inning singles led to Lively bringing Kelly in with the first run on a fielder’s choice, and Hoff’s pitching ensured GW’s 1-0 lead stood through five innings.

The Redskins managed a first-inning single, before Hoff retired 15 consecutive batters spanning the final two outs of the first through the first out of the sixth.

When Hoff came out to pitch the sixth, he did so with the benefit of a three-run lead after the Patriots scored a pair of runs in the sixth. Hoff, Lively and Fenwick each worked walks against Hurricane starting pitcher Owen Gress, and Eli Dawson sent a ground ball to shortstop that scored Hoff, before a throwing error resulted in Lively also touching the plate.

That 3-0 advantage, however, proved not to be enough as the Redskins defeated the Patriots for the second time in as many matchups this season.

Gress allowed three runs on six hits over six innings, while Smith threw four scoreless innings and limited GW to two hits to earn the win.

Johnson finished 2-for-5 and had half of his team’s hits.

Hoff struck out nine over eight strong innings. Kelly led GW with three hits in defeat.

“In the MSAC, essentially you have a mini state tournament right before you head into playoff baseball,” Davis said. “You have top teams in the state here going at it and we feel like we’re right there, but we have to get over that hump, whether it’s mental or physical. We have to keep working towards getting over that hump and we will. These guys will bounce back. They’re resilient. The positive is we proved we’re right there with a team ranked first for the better part of the year, and there’s a reason they’ve been ranked first — they stay on it like they did today.“

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