BARBOURSVILLE - Things looked good for Jefferson early in Tuesday's 8-10 year-old West Virginia Little League championship game at Barboursville Park when it jumped to a 5-0 lead just as it had in the three previous games it had played there.
Hurricane never panicked and rallied for nine unanswered runs to force a 15th and final game in the tournament Wednesday with Jefferson after a 9-6 victory, the first loss of the tournament for Jefferson.
The rally began in the fourth inning when Tyler Baxter reached on an error to lead off the top half of the inning. Ethan Stover then followed with the first of three singles he had. Judson Witt followed with a single to load the bases and Carson Coleman drove them both in with a single. Ian Martin's single, the fifth for Hurricane in the inning, drove in the third run to cut Jefferson's lead to 5-3.
"I told them, 'you guys are the grittiest team I've' ever coached'," Hurricane coach Craig Coleman said. "I asked them, 'Are you just going to go through the motions, or are you going to fight'?"
He already had his answer.
The Hurricane runs all came off of Jefferson's Serf Guerra, who reportedly had been clocked throwing fast balls at 65 mph in USA Baseball events and the Hurricane hitters admitted they were intimidated coming into the game against him.
The team continued and then completed its rally in the fifth inning when Ryan Bowman reached on an error and three more consecutive base hits followed. Tyler Baxter, Hurricane's starting pitcher got the first single. That was followed by Stover's second single that drove in Bowman and a two-run double by Witt that put Hurricane in the lead 7-5.
"We just have to pitch the best we can, win the game and let's play tomorrow," Baxter said after the win.
Singles by Bowman and Baxter in the sixth set Stover up for a two-run single by Stover in the sixth to stretch Hurricane's lead. That proved crucial as Jefferson mounted a rally in the bottom of the sixth.
That rally produced a single run but the two runs to tie the game for Jefferson were stranded on the bases when Stover fielded a ground ball and stepped on first himself for the final out.
"Once we overcame (Guerra) we just did it," said Stover who finished the game 3 for 4 with double and three batted in.
Baxter pitched five innings of the contest and allowed five runs, three earned. After Jefferson opened the game with three runs in the first, a double by Guerra, who was 1 for 3, and a double by Liam Sager followed by a Hurricane error led to two runs in the third, but that was the only damage Jefferson did.
When Guerra was on the mound Hurricane touched him up for five earned runs. The burst of offense also caught Jefferson off guard as it uncharacteristically committed two errors that Hurricane used to its advantage.
Then win capped a remarkable comeback for Hurricane which lost its first game of the tournament, 4-3 to Bridgeport on Friday. It started its comeback then with a 13-0 shutout of Milton, a 14-1 blasting of Madison, then Monday's double-header sweep of Bridgeport and Barboursville.
Hurricane and Jefferson will face each other for the championship game Wednesday at 6 p.m.
HURRICANE 000 342 - 9 12 3
JEFFERSON 302 001 - 6 9 2
WP - Baxter.