CUMBERLAND – In the few times East Webster has lost this season, one main factor has been allowing free passes to opposing hitters.
In the third round of the Class 1A playoffs, the inability to throw strikes reared its ugly head again and ended the Wolverines’ hopes of defending their state crown.
A pair of walks and a hit batsman set the table for a six-run explosion by Stringer, helping the visiting Red Devils defeat East Webster 7-5.
With the win, Stringer (20-4) swept the best-of-three series and advanced to the Class 1A South championship series.
“We were in position to win,” said East Webster coach Wes Johnson. “Then we walk the No. 8 hitter and hit the No. 9 hitter.
“That’s been a problem on and off this year.”
East Webster starting pitcher Jordan Mixon allowing his first run in the sixth.
Then with a 5-1 lead, Mixon walked the leadoff batter in the top of the seventh. Relief pitcher Blake Love then loaded the bases after hitting a batter and walking another.
Johnson then turned to knuckleball pitcher Christopher Gordon. Stringer timed the pitches well, responding with back-to-back RBI singles to cut the lead to 5-3.
After a RBI groundout cut the lead to 1, Stringer catcher Chandler Blakeney gave his team the lead for good with a two-run single.
East Webster held a 4-0 lead after five innings of play, thanks to solo homeruns by Jermaine Liggins, Reggie O’Briant and Hayden Hendrix.
But that would turn out to be three of the only four hits surrended by Stringer starting pitcher Weston Stringer.
“We talk about that all the time – getting walks and putting the ball in play,” said Johnson. “We did put the ball in play some tonight but the kid threw strikes.”
East Webster (26-5) was the defending Class 1A state champion and the Wolverines’ senior class had won two of the last three Class 1A state championships.
“Matter of fact, those seniors have won over 100 ballgames for us in four years,” said Johnson of his 2009 senior class. “We are gonna miss them and they’ve worked hard, basically the same team we had last year.”
Paul Jones/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal