Before he had even walked off the field after his team’s district championship win over Oakdale Thursday, Oneida baseball coach Shawn West was already looking towards Monday’s matchup with Midway and ace pitcher Christian Moore.
“I understand that he’s a great pitcher, but I also understand this: we’re a great-hitting baseball team,” West said Thursday.
On Monday, West’s team took the field in an elimination game against the Green Wave and backed up their coach’s words, putting up 12 hits in the first four innings to earn a 5-3 win in the regional semifinals.
In fact, Moore — who had an 0.91 ERA in the regular season and was almost unhittable in District 3-A play — was relieved after just three and a third innings, as the Indians’ relentless assault at the plate forced the Green Wave to make a change.
It did not start out that way, however. In fact, Midway went ahead 3-0 in the first inning and the Indians appeared to be in trouble.
But with West calmly telling his team they would battle back, the Indians did just that, scoring in each of the first four innings to take the lead.
The Indians’ hitting was so good, in fact, that Oneida jumped to the 5-3 lead despite stranding eight base-runners, four of them in scoring position.
“The scouting report on Midway was that they were an emotional baseball team,” West said. “But after we took the emotion away from them, all of a sudden the emotion swung back our way and they began to fear us as the game went on. Baseball is an emotional game and we did a good job there to stay in that game.”
After Oneida gave up three runs in the first, Matt Williams — who was named MVP of last week’s district tournament — settled in and gave Midway’s batters fits.
Williams retired the last seven batters he faced, and gave up just three hits in 21 at-bats after Alex Thomason’s two-run double put Midway ahead 3-0 in the first.
With only two strikeouts in the game, Williams had plenty of help from his defense. Tanner Sexton twice turned double plays — once after Midway had loaded the bases with only one out in the third, and again after Midway had the tying run aboard in the fifth.
“We’re one-through-nine hitters here; this is the best hitting team I’ve ever coached,” West said. “But I’m here to tell you, if you don’t hang your hat on defense, you’re going to get your tails beat in baseball, and this team plays good defense.”
Caleb Lee got aboard with a single in the first, later scoring on an RBI single by Colby Jeffers. Jeffers was unstoppable in the game, batting three-of-three with two RBIs and a run scored.
Jeffers, who played the season injured, earned praise from his coach.
“These guys (Jeffers and Jordan Terry, who was seven-of-10 in last week’s tournament after also playing part of the season injured) have had the lower batting averages during the year,” West said. “They’re not traditionally low batting average guys, but due to injuries and things of that nature they have been. But they’re coming into their own right when they have to be.”
Cage West led off with a triple in the second inning, then scored on an RBI single by Williams to cut Midway’s lead to 3-2.
Jeffers and Bryant Harper had base hits in the third, followed by back-to-back RBI singles by Williams and Terry to give the Indians their first lead of the night, 4-3.
Oneida kept at it in the fifth. Lee led off with a single, then scored on Jeffers’ RBI double.
It was at that point that Midway made a pitching change, bringing in Zach Edwards. Edwards proved unhittable the rest of the way, sitting down eight Oneida batters in order, four of them on strikes. But the damage had been done, and Williams did not allow Midway a chance to get back into it.