West Siders rally from 2-0 deficit to win
NEW ALBANY — The Mount Vernon 12-year-old All-Stars had perennial powerhouse Hamilton West Side on the ropes, ready to deliver the knockout punch.
But, instead Hamilton was able to get up off the canvas, dust itself off and deliver its own knockout, rallying to beat Mount Vernon 7-2 in the Ohio Little League State tournament Tuesday at New Albany.
“We told them (the kids) to be prepared and they were prepared. We believed we could beat them and had them on the ropes. We just had a couple of mistakes here and there and you can’t do that against a team like this,” said Mount Vernon coach Corey Firebaugh. “I’m so proud of the kids. They fought tooth-and-nail with a great team and had them on the ropes.”
The Jackets had jumped on Hamilton early, thanks to a lucky break offensively and some stellar play defensively.
Hamilton batted first and had opportunities in the first two innings, but strong defensive plays by the Jackets kept them off the scoreboard. Shortstop Zac Clow made two nice defensive plays in the first and centerfielder Caden Theibert showed off his strong arm in the second to nab a baserunner and keep the West Siders off the scoreboard.
Mount Vernon even roughed up West Side pitcher Connor Cuozzo a bit in the bottom of the first inning, getting two runs thanks in part to the first base bag. After two straight strikeouts, Cuozzo then hit Clow with a pitch and Wes Neighbarger followed with a single. After both players moved into scoring position, Theibert came through with the good offensive break. He delivered a sharp ground ball down the line that struck the first base bag and bounced away from Hamilton’s Cam Carter, scoring both Clow and Neighbarger.
Cuozzo settled down after that, allowing just two hits in the next 4 2/3 innings. He also struck out 10 Mount Vernon batters, leaving the game with just one out remaining.
“Their pitcher (Cuozzo) was really dealing. He throws downhill and he’s got a good curve. He mixed the two and kept us off-balance,” Firebaugh said. “We just had too many strike outs.”
After going scoreless the first two innings, Hamilton finally dented the scoreboard in the top of the third. But, thanks to a great defensive play by the Jackets, what could have been trouble didn’t materialize.
Hamilton had loaded the bases with nobody out on singles by Matt Ponatoski and Cade Bowling, mixed in with a walk by Cuozzo. Peyton Davis then smacked a hard ground ball to Clow at shortstop, who grabbed the ball, looked to tag out Cuozzo and then fired to Payton Hempfield at second for the force out. Hempfield then gunned down Cuozzo at third with a nice peg to Ethan Yost.
“Our defense helped out a lot. That double play with the bases loaded was huge. They scored on the play, but it could have been worse. Our
defense really came to play tonight,” Firebaugh said.
Hamilton finally broke through in the fifth. An error, single and a fielder’s choice loaded up the bases again for the West Siders. It also ended the night for Mount Vernon pitcher Camden Firebaugh, who reached his pitch limit. Theibert came on in relief, but things didn’t turn out well for him. A couple of wild pitches and another error helped Hamilton score three times in the inning.
Hamilton finished the Jackets off in the sixth when Carter belted a three-run home run.
Mount Vernon managed just four hits off Cuozzo and Carter, who struck out the final batter of the game. Hempfield cracked a double, while Firebaugh, Neighbarger and Theibert all singled.
Firebaugh pitched the first four-plus innings, striking out one while allowing three walks and seven hits. Theibert pitched the next 1 2/3 innings, fanning one, while walking one and allowing one hit. And, Yost got the final out of the game.
Mount Vernon will be back in action tonight, taking on Boardman at 5:30 p.m.
“We had a couple of things go against us (tonight), but I’m proud of the effort. We just can’t dwell on this loss. We’ve got to get ready for Boardman tomorrow,” coach Firebaugh said.
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