In a game fitting of a conference title match, the Bearcats beat Dover 2-1 in 11 innings to nail down an outright Conference 4A-4 title Friday night.
Starting pitchers Brandon Wolski of Booneville and Christian Ewing of Dover battled it out for the maximum allowable eight innings and the Bearcats’ Cody Harrel (1-0) and Pirates Tanner Watson took up the torch and kept blazing through the opposing lineups.
Three times an inning through an out recorded at home or third before so, perhaps fittingly, it ended when Michael Drawbaugh was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded — one pitch after a near disaster on a missed suicide squeeze on which Drawbaugh swung away — bringing pinch runner Michael Springs home with the winner.
Also somewhat fittingly, the title came down to a one-run game. The win for the Bearcats was their fourth by one run in conference play, three of which occurred at home, and all of those with the deciding run coming in Booneville’s final at bat.
Wolski retired Chance Stine and Keeton Shaw to start the game — Shaw on the first of Wolski’s 16 strike outs — before making a mistake to Corey Hottinger who sent a 1-1 pitch out of the park to make it 1-0.
Ewing, a freshman, walked Harrel leading off the game but that got Jacob Krepps to ground into a force play before walking Wolski. Jesse Frost followed with a base hit that loaded the bases.
The ninth place hitter most of the year, Matt Berry put down a bunt that Ewing tried to flip to Hottinger behind the plate. Krepps scored to make it 1-1 and the bases were still loaded but Ewing got Cody Simpson to ground back to the mound and force Wolski at home and he struck out Drawbaugh.
Ewing didn’t allow another base runner until the third when Krepps singled but was thrown out stealing. Frost (3-for-4) also singled but was stranded.
It was the sixth inning before another Bearcat reached but Berry’s infield hit was erased when he was caught stealing.
Wolski gave up a third inning single to Dalton Van Horn and he hit Hottinger with a pitch in the fourth. Hottinger moved up on a passed ball and again on a ground out but was tagged out trying to score on a passed ball.
That also happened to Harrel in the eighth. Harrel singled with one out and went to third on an error that allowed Wolski to reach. With first base open Dover head coach Jason McGee and the Pirates intentionally walked Frost. With Berry at the plate Harrel tried to score on a passed ball but was tagged out to end the inning.
Undaunted, Harrel worked a perfect eighth and had two down in the ninth when Shaw singled. Shaw was trying to go first to third on an errant pickoff throw by Krepps, who was catching in the absence of James Ray. Wolski took the throw from Simpson in right field and although he threw over 100 pitches it was his throw to gun down Shaw that was arguably his biggest of the day.
Harrel struck out the Pirates in order in the 10th and looked to be in trouble in the 11th when Ethan Davis singled to open the inning and moved to second on a passed ball, but the junior struck out Taylor Moody — Harrel fanned six in three innings — got Garrett McKown to ground out on the infield and retired Van Horn on a foul that Wolski tracked down.
Wolski looked at strike three to open the bottom of the 11th but Frost followed with his third hit of the day. Berry was hit by a 1-2 pitch that McGee insisted included no attempt to get out of the way. Simpson followed with an infield single that was essentially a swinging bunt and the bases were loaded.
Drawbaugh had a 1-1 count when Springs broke for the plate on what was apparently a suicide squeeze. Drawbaugh said he didn’t see head coach Darby Ulmer’s squeeze sign but he did see Springs heading home and swung at the high pitch and managed to foul it off. Watson hit Drawbaugh with the next pitch.