“I thought we’d put up a number right away, but 12’s a little ridiculous,” West Side coach Tim Nichting said. “We’ll take it. We came out hitting the ball really well, and I mean everybody.”
Nick Brosius had two hits and drove in five runs for West Side, while Eddie Tanner was 3-for-3 with two RBIs and Clint Moak added a double, a single and two RBIs.
Brosius and Moak are in their second year with the 12-year-old all-star squad. They played up last year as West Side advanced to the Great Lakes Regional in Westfield, Ind.
“We’re more athletic, I think. We’re scrappier,” Brosius said in comparing the two teams. “We’re pretty good. We’ve got some talent.”
West Side, which has won eight of the last nine 12-year-old state titles, will begin state tournament play Saturday, July 21, at the Hoover Community Recreation Complex in North Canton. The locals will meet District 7 champion Galion in a 1 p.m. matchup.
“I wish Hamilton West Side all the luck in the world. I hope they win state,” Hamilton-Fairfield coach Travis Riley said. “When it comes down to it, we’re all from Hamilton, so I’d love to see them do it again and make it to the World Series. I’ll be cheering them on.”
This West Side team didn’t win the district as 10s and 11s, but outscored its four district opponents 47-4 this year. A fourth straight state championship is a realistic goal.
“We’ve still got to get better, but I like our chances,” Nichting said. “We’ll be in the middle of things.”
Ethan Stone tossed a two-hitter with seven strikeouts against Hamilton-Fairfield, allowing a double by Jordan Zapata and an infield single by Noah Wagster.
The West Side offense collected 10 hits in the first inning against Hamilton-Fairfield starter Braylin Hailstones. He would face 17 batters and throw 60 pitches in that frame.
Brosius, West Side’s second baseman, delivered a pair of two-run singles in the top half of the first.
“I’m feeling real good at the plate. It’s really fun,” Brosius said. “We came out here and put a 12-spot on ’em the first inning. That’s what I like to see out of our team. It’s a team effort.”
Hailstones pitched to four more batters in the second inning — two walks, a single and an error — before Brandon Huang relieved him.
Jonathan Alcorn and Camden Carter both marked a pair of RBIs for the winners. Noah Prewitt singled, walked twice and scored three times.
“They were hitting the crap out of the ball today,” Riley said. “They’ve just got good hitters from the top to the bottom of their lineup. They get a lot of extra practices together, they play together all year long, and they deserve it. I’m not going to sell them short.”
Despite West Side’s decades-long domination of this tournament, Nichting said the coaches always strive to make sure their players take every opponent seriously.
“We really preach a lot of mentality,” he said. “We want to make sure they’re loose and still know we’ve got to go out and play the game.”
The law of averages says the day will come when West Side won’t win the local 12-year-old crown. Nichting said that may be true, adding with a laugh, “But not on my time. I don’t know how many years I’ve got left, but they’re not getting me.”
Hamilton-Fairfield has been to the district finals three other times — 2012, 2011 and 1996 (as East Hamilton).
Riley said he’ll walk away from this season with a very positive outlook. He believes the program’s future is bright.
“We’ll just keep building on it,” Riley said. “Our numbers are up. We had over 300 people register this year, and that’s big for us. We’ve got a softball program now. We’re not just about the boys. We’re about the girls too.
“As far as the kids on this team, I’m not disappointed in them. I’m not upset with them. Hopefully us being in the limelight making it to the district championship will get people to realize that we play good baseball at Hamilton-Fairfield.
“I know a lot of Little Leagues are going to travel ball and all that. Everybody does it in our district except for us. And the fact that we made it to the championship game when we’ve only played 10 real games together, that’s a testament to us.”