Warriors survive the triple-header, beat Dixon two games to one

WAYNESVILLE — It took nine hours, three games and seven pitchers, but the Waynesville Warriors finally held off the Dixon Bulldogs for the American Legion baseball District 16 championship.

After splitting the first two games, Waynesville winning the first 8-7 and Dixon the second 7-2, the Warriors took the third match 12-11 in nine innings.

The first triple-header game started at 4:00 p.m. and the finale ended around 1:00 a.m.

Despite that fact, Warriors 15-and-under coach Chad Bolin said he didn't have a tired muscle in his body.

“Absolutely not,” Bolin said. “It was too exciting. I'm flying pretty high right now.”

Noah Ochoa, the hero who hit the RBI single to right field with one out in the bottom of the ninth, spoke contrary to his coach. Extra innings in the third game gave him all he could handle.

“Tiring,” Ochoa said matter-of-factly. “Very tiring.”

Both physically and mentally.

Most of the damage Waynesville did was when they were fighting from behind and/or with two outs, providing extra stress.

In the first game, the Post 298 Bulldogs jumped out in front 3-0 with Jeremiah Bertoni adding a run on a RBI single down the right-field line.

The teams traded a couple runs before, in the bottom of the fourth with two outs, Brendan Finchdoubled down the left-field line to bring home two and Ethan Brown tied it up with an infield single to first.

Tied 4-4 in the bottom of the fifth Cam'ren Starks was plunked and a run came in for Waynesville to take a 5-4 lead. The Warriors padded their lead after an error allowed a run to score.

Dixon grabbed the lead back in the top of the sixth after Hunter Skaggs hit a sacrifice fly and two separate throwing errors scored runs, giving the Bulldogs a 7-6 lead.

In the bottom of the sixth with two outs Eric Kane scored on a passed ball to tie the game at seven. Then Cam'ren Starks slapped a RBI single to take the lead back and, after a flawless top of the seventh by Zach Schellhase, Waynesville grabbed the W, 8-7.

In the middle match, Dixon used two big innings to run away with the game.

In the bottom of the first (they were the home team in the second game) Braden Mahurin knocked a run in with a single, Dylan Ramsey scored on a passed ball and a fielder's choice scored three runs.

The Bulldogs got back to work in the second.

Mahurin hit an RBI single, Skaggs walked a run in, Jase Shleton added a run on a single and Austin Beam followed with an RBI single to bring the Bulldogs to their seven run total they would win by.

Waynesville added a run in the top of the seventh, but Dixon won 7-2.

After that loss, things got a little gloom and doom in the dugout, but the Warriors' coaches talked to the kids about their favorite word.

“One of the baseball attributes we talk about in this program is resilience,” Bolin said. “And there is no better opportunity for a program than when you can have success like this where their resilience has paid off for them at a young age. It's a perfect opportunity for us to grow as a program.”

The talk appeared to be working when Schellhase scored on a passed ball in the first and Starks scored on a single after he tripled to open the second.

In the third is when the Warriors' toughness began to be tested.

Bertoni scored for the Bulldogs on a fielder's choice and then three more scored on consecutive passed balls, all with two outs, to give Dixon a 4-2 lead.

All looked lost for Waynesville in the top of the fifth when the Bulldogs scored five more runs to make it a 9-2 ball game.

Out of nowhere, the Warriors found their bats.

“We were very quiet for almost nine or ten innings there in the middle,” Bolin said. “About the fifth inning of the third game something clicked and it was a riot from then on.”

Kane kicked off scoring with an RBI double to right, and Ochoa kept things rolling with a 2-RBI double to center to make it a 9-5 game. Jacob Woodward singled up the center of the field to bring in another run to cut the lead to three.

Again, the boys in orange were given a test when Dixon got a run back on a double to center in the sixth.

They passed with flying colors though, and Schellhase scored on a heads up play on the basepaths and scored on an error in the sixth.

Ochoa made quick work of Dixon's side with a groundout, pick-off and another groundout and it was all up to Waynesville to keep themselves in the game.

A fielder's choice scored Cedar Lohraff to narrow the lead to 10-8. And then Alex Dubon had a date with Lady Luck.

After being silent for a while, with two outs no less, Dubon smashed a ball high and far into center field. The centerfielder was drifting back and forth under the ball, but it went over his head and bounced off the wall. Two runs scored on the play and the game was tied 10-10. A strikeout ended the inning, but the whole dugout was on their feet and they knew they had new life.

Dixon went down without a whimper in the top of the eighth.

Waynesville had runners on first and third with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and couldn't do anything with the runner in scoring position.

Then trouble brewed in the top of the ninth for the Warriors.

An error in the outfield put Shelton on first and Beam doubled to put them both in scoring position.

A pop-fly to center didn't score Shelton from third, but the ensuing fielder's choice did and they took the 11-10 lead. A groundout to the shortstop ended the inning.

The pressure was on for Waynesville to get their run back.

Brendan Finch reached on an error to lead off and then Brown beat out an infield single to put the winning run on first. Dubon drew a walk to load the bases.

Schellhase walked in a run to tie the game.

For good measure, and to make things interesting, the next batter struck out.

That put Ochoa up to bat.

Since the first run scored, the Bulldogs had brought in an outfielder to put five players in the dirt behind their pitcher.

Of course, the weakness to that defense is if a ball is blooped over the infielders' heads.

Which is what Ochoa did.

That brought Brown to the plate to win the District 16 championship.

Ochoa, understandably, was tripping over his words trying to describe his emotions.

“Excited, happy,” Ochoa said, smiling and running out of synonyms.

The championship win stamps the Warriors' ticket to their state run which begins in Washington on Wednesday July 16 at 10:00 a.m.