Western Hills’ first hit and first run didn’t come until the fourth inning Monday.
That was enough to get the Wolverines going, and the WHHS baseball team came out with a 3-2 win over Paul Laurence Dunbar at Western Hills.
“I made a comment to one of our coaches there was a feel, in the third inning, like we were down four or five runs,” WHHS coach Eric Grubb said, “and then once we scored that run and evened it up again, the entire feel of the dugout changed again to where it felt like we had a chance.”
Dunbar (17-12) got nearly half its hits and scored half its runs in the first inning with a lead-off double from Connor McHugh and singles by Nicky Avioli and Connor Huskey.
The Wolverines tied the game in the fourth inning when Jesse Howard led off with a single. Teddy Emberton, running for Howard, advanced to third on two wild pitches, and he scored when Zack Barker grounded out to first base.
“Whenever you’re facing good pitching, it has a postseason feel to it where any run is so huge,” Grubb said. “We’ve told them all year long, just getting a run on the board is so huge. You don’t have to have those innings where you score five or six. We’d all love to have them, but pushing across a run here and there puts pressure on them.”
WHHS went ahead 2-1 in the fifth inning as Cameron Barton led off with a single, took second on a sacrifice bunt by Brendan Cummins and scored when Seth Roush reached on an error.
Western Hills loaded the bases with one out in the sixth inning when Howard drew a walk, Thomas Bennett was hit by a pitch and Kyle Fisher blooped a single into shallow center field.
Cummins drew a walk to score Emberton, who was running for Howard.
Dunbar closed out the scoring in the top of the seventh inning with a single by Garrett Bugg, two errors and a fielder’s choice.
WHHS finished with four hits, all singles, from Howard, Fisher, Barton and Kyle Stevens.
Fisher pitched a complete game for the Wolverines, giving up seven hits and striking out eight.
“Fisher threw excellent,” Grubb said. “He threw the way we know Fisher can. He’s a guy, when he gets the ball down, he can beat anybody in the state.
“He threw a lot of change-ups tonight, which is not something he does a whole lot, but tonight he had a good feel for it and was able to use it.”
Dunbar’s hits were a double by McHugh and singles from Avioli, Jacob Crouch, Jack Cress, Huskey, Bugg and Evan Nicoulin.
McHugh was the Bulldogs’ starting pitcher and went four innings. Isaac Taylor pitched 1 1/3 innings, and Aaron Ochsenbein pitched two-thirds of an inning.
Seth Knight, who coached Western Hills for four years, is in his first season as Dunbar’s head coach. Grubb had coached with Knight since 2007 before taking the WHHS job this season.
“I’ve known him since we were in the second grade,” Grubb said. “We grew up playing baseball against each other. This time it was kind of odd. I’ve coached with Seth for so long, little things he says just bring a lot of memories, a lot of good times. Him coaching third base, just saying things to hitters and stuff, it’s nothing new.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s a good guy.”
Monday’s game was Senior Night for WHHS, and the team’s five seniors were honored in a ceremony prior to the game. They are Barker, Fisher, Roush, Stevens and Chase Mahoney.
WHHS plays at home today against Carroll County and at Madison Central Wednesday.