TALLMADGE — The Mount Vernon 12-year-old All-Stars finally met a team worthy of its competition on Monday evening at the 2009 Ohio State Little League Tournament. Mount Vernon took on Hamilton West Side in the winner’s bracket semifinals in a slugfest.
The teams matched each other hit for hit, with Hamilton getting the best of Mount Vernon with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning, 5-4. Mount Vernon had tied the game in the top of the inning off a two-run home run by Tyler Hedrick.
“What a great ballgame,” said Hamilton manager Mark Maus. “These were two great teams. We went to work when we had to, and got the win. That’s all you can do.”
Mount Vernon posted eight hits in the game, but West Side notched nine of its own off Mount Vernon pitcher Alex Arck, including three in the final inning to help earn the win. Jake Zeek singled with one out, and Reid Maus followed with a double. Jacob Stewart then hit a 1-2 pitch back up the middle to score the winning run.
“I thought this was anyone’s game the whole time,” said Mount Vernon manager Phil Arck. “I thought when we were up 2-0, we couldn’t let up on them. We made a bad play, and they got a run in, which kind of hurt. Really outside of that, we played good the whole game. This is a real good baseball team and I think they played a real good baseball team.”
Mount Vernon struck first in the game, staking a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning off of Hamilton’s Matt Snyder. The 6-foot-2 fireballer looked imposing on the mound, but didn’t stop the Mount Vernon hitters. Tyler Galbraith walked to lead off, but was erased on a fielder’s choice by Lucas Zambori. Nathan Davis singled to move Zambori up, and he came around to score on a fielding error by Snyder. Davis took third on a wild pitch before J.D. Orr smacked an RBI single, scoring Davis. That was Orr’s only hit on the night.
“We misplayed a couple, and they scored off of it,” said manager Maus. “But these are 12-year-olds. You have to take the good with the bad.”
On the defensive side, Arck’s performance was strong, but Hamilton’s bats were stronger. After setting the side down in order in the first two innings, Arck began to run into some trouble in the bottom of the third. Snyder singled to lead off He moved to second on a one-out single by Kade Carlyle, and both runners moved up on a passed ball. Arck, trying to catch Snyder leaning off third, threw over to a wide open third base with no defender, giving Hamilton its first run.
Mount Vernon threatened in the top of the fourth after Greg Dennis reached on an error and Hedrick followed with a single. Hamilton turned a double play on a ball hit by Orr to minimize the situation and then got Ryan Fitzgerald to fly out to end the inning. The double play at first was controversial as it looked like Orr beat the throw by close to a step.
Adam Robbins greeted Arck with a single in the bottom of the inning, and a double by Zeek put two on with no outs. Arck struck out the next batter, but Robbins scored on a passed ball to tie the game at 2. Then, Stewart dropped down a sacrifice bunt that scored Zeek to put Hamilton ahead after four, 3-2.
Arck reached on a hard single back to the mound off Hamilton reliever Joe Hudson to start the fifth, and Griffin Menke doubled to left-center field to put runners on second and third with no outs. Hudson registered a strikeout before Dakota Back hit into a fielder’s choice. Arck was charging hard toward home, but Carlyle, Hamilton’s third baseman, made a clean grab and threw to Maus at home plate to get Arck, though it appeared he beat the tag. The inning ended with another strikeout.
Hamilton upped its lead to two in the bottom of the fifth. After starting with back-to-back strikeouts, Cameron Nunn doubled and came around to score on an RBI single by John Heckman. Heckman was thrown out trying to take third on the play, ending the inning.
Down to its last at-bats, Mount Vernon started the top of the sixth off strong. Dennis singled to right to lead off, and Hedrick followed with a home run to left to tie the game at 4. West Side registered outs on three of the next four batters, however, to end the inning. Arck was the only hit, a single.
Now a new game, Hamilton went to work in the bottom of the sixth. With Arck still on the mound, Mount Vernon needed just three outs to get another opportunity. It wasn’t meant to be, however.
A groundout started the inning for Arck, but things quickly unraveled with the three straight hits, including the gamewinner.
“They beat us by one run, so obviously, we matchup with them,” said manager Arck. “I think the kids got a little down in the later innings, but we tried to keep them up. We missed some plays we should have had, but that’s the way it goes.”
Arck finished with nine strikeouts in five-plus innings. He walked none and scattered the nine hits. At the plate, Hedrick went 2-for-3 with two RBI, and Arck was 2-for-4. Mount Vernon batters struck out four times — all in the last two innings.
“I was very happy with (Alex),” said manager Arck, who is also his father. “I told him I think he is throwing some of the best games he has ever thrown. He was a little let down. We thought we had two calls that didn’t go our way — the play at home and the play at first — but that’s the way it goes sometimes. We thought those calls were detrimental to our loss. ... We made some great defensive plays. Nathan Davis and Griffin Menke made two great plays in the outfield right off the bat.”
Hudson picked up the win, going two innings. He allowed five hits and struck out four. Snyder allowed three hits and two walks in four innings. Zeek was the only Hamilton batter to register more than one hit, going 2-for-3.
Mount Vernon drops into the loser’s bracket, where it will have to fight its way out. First up is Clayton Hardscrabble, which eliminated Defiance on Monday, this afternoon at 3 p.m. With a win, Mount Vernon would advance to play the winner of Avon, which eliminated Bellevue with an 11-1 victory, and Canfield. North Canton defeated Canfield earlier in the day on Monday. That game would be played at 6 p.m. today.
“We’ve got to win five straight games now to get through this and be the state champs,” manager Arck said. “It is going to be really tough, but it is up to the kids. They are going to have to play 100 percent all the time to get this done. It is really up to them, but we are going to do our best to keep them ready.”
With the win, Hamilton West Side advances to face North Canton in the winner’s bracket final on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
“I watched (Mount Vernon) play last night and I thought they were awfully, awfully good,” said manager Maus. “Now that we’ve played them, I still think that. I think we will probably end up seeing them again. I would say there is a good chance of that.”