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Gutty pitching, Moseley’s clutch double lift Leroy to series win over Millry

Leroy coach Matt Braun hugs pitcher Brady Keith as the Bears celebrate their 8-3 win Friday in the deciding game of a series against No. 1-ranked Millry. In his first start this season, Keith got the win with a complete-game three-hitter. Rob Moseley (12) delivered a big two-run double in the seventh inning to help the Bears put the game away. (John O’Dell/Call News)

 

Millry players, including Wesley McIlwain (5), Caden Welford, Lawson Whigham (10) and Hisun Marlowe (22), celebrate after Joe Warrick’s walk-off RBI single won Friday’s opener 4-3 in Millry. Leroy came back to win the nightcap 8-3 and the series. (John O’Dell/Call News)

 

Millry’s Jackson Waite scores on a close play at the plate in the sixth inning as Leroy catcher Sawyer Sullivan defends during the Wildcats’ 4-3 win in Friday’s opener. Waite also got the win with a three-hitter and 12 strikeouts. (John O’Dell/Call News)

 

By JIMMY WIGFIELD

MILLRY — Seemingly held together by some chicken wire and zip ties, Leroy’s Rob Moseley crunched a two-run double in the seventh inning to break an 0-for-10 slump and help the No. 8 Bears to an 8-3 win over No. 1 Millry Friday and give them the lead in the race for the 1A Area 1 championship.

Moseley — who struggled to shrug off injuries to his elbow and hamstring and who had hit only three balls out of the infield in the three games against the Wildcats — clobbered the first pitch he saw from Lawson Whigham in the top of the seventh over the head of center fielder Hisun Marlowe to bring in two runs and give the Bears a 5-2 lead.

“I wasn’t being disciplined at the plate and I was down on myself and I was letting it carry over to other at-bats,” Moseley said. “But he hung a slider and I just hammered it.”

Leroy went on to score three more runs in the inning, including one on a bases-loaded hit batter and another when John Foster beat the throw home on Gabe Posey’s grounder.

The Bears (13-8, 6-0) overtook Millry (20-2, 6-2) for the area lead and can win the championship and home-field advantage in the playoffs with a sweep of Fruitdale on April 4-5.

Wildcats coach Ed Warrick was left to wonder what would have happened if his hitters had ignited the powderkeg of 24 stranded baserunners in the three games. Millry had won 10 of its first 19 games by 10 runs or more but managed just nine runs in the three games.

“If you’d have told me we would lose this series, I’d have said you were dead wrong,” he said. “We’re not hitting the ball the way we need to. We’ve slumped a little. The pitching was good enough to win. We left too many hitters in scoring position.

“We’ve won a lot of games but we’ve got to win the big game. It’s frustrating but we’ve got to move past this and try to get better. This puts us in a tougher bracket in the playoffs but I’d rather see those teams early and see what we’re made of.”

Leroy’s Brady Keith (2-0), who came into the series as a spot reliever and with a 10.18 earned-run average, put together his first complete game in his first start of the season, allowing one earned run on three hits while striking out six.

“We were checking his pitch count up to the last guy,” Bears coach Matt Braun said of Keith, who threw 118 pitches in the victory.

Leroy nearly got another complete game from Keegan Giles in the Wildcats’ 4-3 win in Friday’s opener, Giles (0-3) allowed only two hits into the bottom of the seventh before Joe Warrick’s walk-off RBI single off Keith in relief won it.

Braun said Keith and Giles improved their durability in the offseason.

“They were our hardest workers in the fall,” he said. “We had two guys who pitched for us today who showed us their ability to finish games. They both pitched their tails off for 14 innings. Brady and Keegan are three-pitch guys and we knew they would have to use the changeup a lot today and not give in on the fastball. They both mixed things up and changed speeds well.”

The Bears’ two victories in the pivotal series were even more remarkable since ace Sawyer Sullivan (5-1) couldn’t pitch due to an injury. He caught instead and was 3-for-3 with two RBIs in the clinching win, including a two-run single in the first to give Leroy a 3-0 lead. Sullivan reached base in all 11 of his at-bats in the three-game series — four on hits, four on walks, twice when he was hit by a pitch and once on an error.

“The guys did a tremendous job pulling together when our best pitcher wasn’t available,” Braun said. “I can’t say enough about Sawyer, showing the toughness to catch three games injured.”

Millry had its own injury problems as leading hitter Shooter Holyfield was relegated to pinch-runner duty because he broke a bone in his hand after striking out in a recent game and slammed his hand in anger in the dugout. He wore a cast in the series.

Both of Friday’s games were close to the end, with the Bears leading the opener until the last inning and leading all the way in the finale.

“It was good for our kids to win that kind of fight,” said Braun, who also revealed right fielder Rylon Moore played sick in the third game.

Moseley said he sensed a change in attitude among his teammates in the series.

“We’ve grown closer as a team as the series went on,” he said. “We learned to play as a team.”

Foster and Moore each had a hit and an RBI and Brayden Huebner had two hits, including a double leading off the seventh.

Whigham (3-1) took the loss, giving up eight runs off 10 hits.

Jackson Waite had a hit and an RBI for the Wildcats, who left the bases loaded in the fourth when Joe Warrick hit into a force out at second base. Millry stranded nine baserunners.

“We’re going to see pitching even better than that later on and we’ve got to hit it,” coach Warrick said. “The way we played earlier and the way we’re playing right now is night and day. The No. 1 ranking, I guess it’s like Nick Saban said, it’s rat poison. It puts some things in the kids’ minds but you’re not No. 1 until you win it all. But don’t count us out.”

Millry 4,

Leroy 3

In Friday’s opener, the Wildcats trailed from the first inning to the seventh until Joe Warrick’s hard two-out single up the middle brought in Whigham with the winning run.

Caden Welford had tied it 3-3 with an RBI groundout.

Waite (3-0) got the win with a complete-game three-hitter which included 12 strikeouts and only two walks.

“Their pitcher did a good job,” Braun said. “We had a chance to extend the lead and it’s a credit to him we didn’t. Giles kept us in there until the end.”

The Bears left two runners in scoring position in the first and another in the second, third and fifth.

Giles had pitched well but Braun pulled him after 100 pitches and two outs in the bottom of the seventh. With Whigham on third, Keith came in and Joe Warrick lashed his first pitch into center field to bring in the winning run.

“That’s why he’s in the three hole,” coach Warrick said. “He wants to win and we fought and gave ourselves a chance.”

Foster had two hits and two RBIs for Leroy.

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