Fairfield edges Big Blue as West wraps up outright GMC title

Fairfield’s Nolan McWhorter makes contact with the ball during the Indians’ 2-1 Division I sectional loss to Elder on May 12, 2016, at Joe Nuxhall Field. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
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Fairfield’s Nolan McWhorter makes contact with the ball during the Indians’ 2-1 Division I sectional loss to Elder on May 12, 2016, at Joe Nuxhall Field. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

With Fairfield High School’s baseball team entering Wednesday’s play with a slim chance of getting a share of the Greater Miami Conference title, Indians coach Tommy Begley asked for the next best thing — a 20-win season.

Lakota West clinched the outright GMC championship with a 7-1 win over Lakota East. It also pushed the Indians a game closer to their other objective.

Surrendering a two-run lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, visiting Fairfield recovered with a go-ahead run in the seventh to beat Hamilton 3-2 at Stang Field.

“I’m just excited to find a way to win,” Begley said after the rivalry victory. “I’ve been in a few of these now as a coach and a player, and when you’re on the winning side, it’s a lot of fun.”

A steady rain dampened Hamilton’s Senior Night, and the festivities quickly became gloomier. After three pitches, Fairfield’s Kaleb Ford stood on third with a stand-up triple. Two pitches after that, the Indians had a 1-0 lead on an Andrew Sams sacrifice fly.

The lead doubled in the third when Sams singled to right, scoring Noah Bauman.

And with right-hander Kurt Lange outsmarting the crumbling pitcher’s mound — he allowed one hit through four innings — the Indians appeared comfortably ahead until a late Big Blue rally.

Hamilton finally scored in the fifth when Austin Andrews doubled to left and scored on a fielder’s choice two batters later.

In the next inning, Hamilton loaded the bases with one out before Lange was relieved by left-hander Tyler Morgan. After walking in HHS pitcher Jake Pennington to tie the game, Morgan got pinch-hitter Austin Broshear to strike out looking.

“He came into a tough situation there, and he did exactly what we needed him to do,” Begley said. “With his confidence level right now, he’s the guy we want to go to at the end. We know he’s going to go right at hitters and give everything he has. That’s huge.”

Fairfield pinch runner Shane Hatfield scored the following inning when Hamilton’s Eric Roberts’ throw to first was short and skipped in the infield grass. Morgan prevented any batter to get past first in the bottom of the seventh to secure the win.

The Indians (17-5 overall, 13-4 GMC) will host Hamilton on Friday before Saturday’s regular-season conclusion with visiting Edgewood.

“Now we’re going to work toward that tournament run,” Begley said.

As for the Big Blue (10-14, 7-10), the late rally ended in overflowing frustration as Pennington, who’d already pitched well, struck out and tossed his helmet as the Indians left the infield celebrating.

“It’s always tough to lose, especially when you fight and you claw back into the game and things don’t go your way,” Hamilton coach Joey Lewis said. “We stayed competitive.

“The old saying is, ‘If you leave them to where we’re they’re close enough to strike, they usually will.’ That was true with us. We were able to take advantage late in the game and get back in the game. And that was true with them … they took advantage.”

Lewis did praise his seven seniors, saying he’s enjoyed coaching and developing some of them since they were 13 years old in summer baseball.

“They’ve been a part of what we’ve been doing for a while,” he said. “It’s always tough to watch the seniors go.”

Big Blue will visit Kings on Thursday.

Fairfield 101-000-1—3-2-2

Hamilton 000-011-0—2-3-3

WP — Tyler Morgan (3-0); LP — Jake Pennington (4-6). Records: F 17-5, 13-4 GMC; H 10-14, 7-10 GMC

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