In its inaugural season, the Mountain East Conference is one game away from a fitting end to its postseason baseball tournament.
West Virginia State rode the pitching of Tyler Hall — who got plenty of defensive help — to a 9-1 win over Concord Saturday night. The win put the Yellow Jackets (33-16) in today’s championship game, where they will take on Notre Dame College at 1 p.m.
State is trying to win the first-ever MEC title in veteran coach Cal Bailey’s final season. Bailey is retiring after 37 seasons at his alma mater.
The loss ended the season for Concord at 38-16 — a school record for wins in a season. The Mountain Lions won two of the final three West Virginia Conference championships, both against state at Epling Stadium.
Hall (8-2), a freshman from Riverside, had a workmanlike outing. He only struck out three, but faced just one batter over the minimum through the first four innings and did not walk a batter.
The Jackets turned some nice plays on defense to help preserve Hall’s gem:
n They turned a double play with runners on first and second and one out to get out of the second.
n Third baseman Joshua Kiser dove to his left to take a single away from Ryan Johnston with MEC Player of the Year Joey Miller at second to end the fourth.
n Shortstop Cody Smith made a diving catch in shallow center field with one out and a runner at second. That play helped limit Concord to one run in the fifth.
Jack Hudson, State’s leading hitter, tripled in his first two at-bats to help give the Jackets a 3-0 lead.
Anthony Payne reached on a two-out error in the first and scored on a double by Noah Blackhurst. Hudson’s triple to right center drove in Blackhurst for a 2-0 State lead.
In the third, Hudson hit a shot off the wall in right center for a one-out triple, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Andrew Pickering.
State broke it open with a three-run eighth.
With runners on first and second and one out, Trenton Porter laced a single to left off reliever Chris Baker. Bailey was waving pinch runner Sean Williams — a Princeton graduate — but the ball skipped past Lions left fielder T.J. Brockway, allowing Williams to score without a play and Andrew Pickering to score from first.
Porter went all the way to third and scored on a sac fly by Concord transfer Zach Cloxton to make it 6-1.
State added three more unearned runs in the top of the ninth.
Seven of the Jackets’ nine runs were unearned thanks to six Concord errors.
Hall, the MEC Freshman of the Year, went seven innings and allowed six hits and an unearned run.
Concord starter Kevin Mack took a tough loss. After State went up 3-0, Mack retired nine straight and 12 of 13 — Pickering reached on an error in the sixth — before he walked Eric Craft with two out in the seventh.
Mack (3-2) lasted seven-plus innings, walking four and striking out two. He gave up five hits and four runs, two earned.
Senior Bret Blevins was 1 for 4 with an infield single for the Lions. He finishes tied for the school record in career hits with 256.
Notre Dame (25-22) stayed alive with a 9-8 win over Urbana Saturday evening. The Falcons, who lost 14-0 to Concord on the first day of the tournament, must beat State twice to win the championship.
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