West Raleigh rallies past Winchester
On Sunday afternoon, West Raleigh, North Carolina capped an undefeated run through the Cal Ripken 12-Year Old Southeast Regional Tournament by pulling out a thrilling 9-8 victory over Winchester, Virginia in Lewisburg.
Having won three of the last four Southeast Region championships in their age group, West Raleigh held a 6-3 lead through the first three innings of play, but Winchester came storming back and plated five runs over the next three frames to seize a 8-6 advantage.
West Raleigh, however, refused to relinquish their crown and pushed across three runs in the bottom of the sixth, highlighted by a game-winning RBI single from Sam Kulasingam, to take the championship back home to North Carolina.
"We had the confidence that we could comeback. In June, we won a tournament down in Atlanta where we were down in the sixth inning in a couple of games and ended up coming back to win both of those. That experience was invaluable," said West Raleigh coach Bryan Holjes.
Thanks to Sunday's triumph, West Raleigh advances to the Cal Ripken World Series, which starts on Aug. 8 and will be held in Aberdeen, Maryland.
After averaging over 11 runs per game in their six previous tournament games, West Raleigh continued their torrid offensive pace and pounded out 11 hits against three Winchester hurlers. Penn Sealy (3 RBI) and relief pitcher Garrett Mc Craw (2 RBI) both went 2-for-3 with a homerun to lead North Carolina at the plate. Paul Rider also tallied two hits for West Raleigh, while Carter Holjes (2 RBI), Jake DeFranco (1 RBI), Kulasingam (1 RBI), Zach Miller, and Matt Willadsen each had one hit.
Winchester starting pitcher Jalen Tyson suffered the loss after returning to the mound in the bottom of the sixth inning and allowed seven runs over two and a third innings of work on nine hits and a walk. Chandler Ballenger was Virginia's most effective relief pitcher and recorded two strikeouts in two perfect innings of work.
Winchester also finished with 11 hits and belted four homeruns in the contest. Cameron Mintz paced Virginia offensively by going 3-for-4 with two homeruns, 3 RBI, and three runs scored. Tyson (3 RBI), Calvin Bowser (1 RBI), and Ballenger notched two hits apiece as well with Tyson and Bowser both clubbing homeruns, while Daniel Copenhaver and Colby Monroe each had one hit.
McCraw picked up the win on the mound for West Raleigh and allowed four runs over two and a third innings on six hits. Despite racking up seven strikeouts over three innings, North Carolina starting pitcher Nolen McLean had to settle for the no decision after allowing three runs on three hits and a walk.
Winchester jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning thanks to a Mintz two-run homer and a solo shot by Tyson, but West Raleigh quickly counterpunched and crossed home plate four times in the bottom half of the frame on the strength of a solo homer by McCraw, a two-run dinger by Sealey, and a Holjes sacrifice fly to pull ahead 4-3.
North Carolina then tallied two more runs in the bottom of the second with the help of two errors and a pair of RBI singles by McCraw and Sealy to open up a 6-3 advantage.
Winchester began to claw their way back into the game in the fourth inning and narrowed the gap to 6-4 on a solo homer by Bower, before Mintz smacked another solo shot in the top of the fifth to slice the deficit to 6-5.
In the top of the sixth, Virginia completed their comeback by plating more runs to take an 8-6 lead. After Winchester loaded the bases with one out on an error and a couple of infield singles by Ballenger and Mintz, Tyson laced a two-run single into right field before Mintz scored on an errant pickoff throw a few moments later.
"Our kids showed great heart and I couldn't be more proud of them. They made a great comeback against a phenomenal West Raleigh team and did everything I asked of them," said Winchester coach Scott Copenhaver.
West Raleigh, though, quickly regained their composure and responded with three runs in the bottom half of the inning. Following a leadoff single by Rider, Miller reached base on a fielder's choice when Winchester unsuccessfully tried to throw out Rider at second. After Holjes drove in Rider with a RBI single, Miller came home on a DeFranco RBI single to tie the game at 8-8, but Holjes was thrown out at third base on the play while DeFranco advanced to second. After moving to third on a wild pitch, DeFranco scored the winning run when Kulasingam blasted a RBI single off the base of the centerfield fence to give West Raleigh the 8-7 victory.