GULFPORT -- It doesn't matter what you call it. All that mattered Tuesday night for West Harrison was that Colby Cagle came through in the clutch.
With two on and no outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, Cagle showed bunt a couple of times before belting a "Baltimore chop" over a drawn in Long Beach second baseman. The single through the right side scored Taylor Woodcock from second and boosted WHHS to a 2-1 walk-off victory.
"Ground ball with eyes? Whatever you want to call it, we'll take every one of them we can get," WHHS coach David Marsland said after the Hurricanes (15-3, 4-1) edged ahead of Long Beach (10-8, 3-2) for first in Region 8-5A.
Long Beach threatened in the top of the eighth. WHHS starter Kasey Donaldson was in and out of trouble throughout the game but managed to avoid chaos when needed. With his pitch count up, Marsland turned to freshman Tate Parker to prolong the game.
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Long Beach's Justin Lockey walked to open the eighth and was sacrificed over. After Charlie Westovich singled to put runners on the corners and then took second without a throw, Long Beach fanned at a couple of bunt attempts before Parker struck out consecutive Bearcats to send the game to the decisive frame.
"Kasey threw well when he was in the zone, but he was so erratic all night long that he got his pitch count up too high," Marsland said of Donaldson, who struck out six but also walked six and hit two batters in the no-decision. "We brought in a freshman and he rose up to the challenge and answered it."
When it was West Harrison's turn to respond, Cagle also tried -- unsuccessfully, at first -- to bunt before chopping the ball past Long Beach's second baseman, who was even with the mound when the ball hit the edge of the grass and bounced over his head.
"I was trying to get a push bunt down third to get a base hit and make them make a bad throw so we could score the runner from second. I missed the bunt and the guy on second base was creeping up to me so I hit it over his head," Cagle said "I thought he was about to touch me (he was so close). I just tried to get it over his head somehow and score the runner."
LBHS starter Josh Borzik kept his Bearcats in the game, striking out six against seven hits and a walk in the complete-game effort.
Marsland said his players routinely came back to the dugout befuddled by Borzik.
"He was dealing, throwing his breaker and just keeping our kids off balance," he said. "They were coming back into the dugout saying, 'the ball's here, the ball's there.' He was around the zone all night long and we were all over the place, so it was tough for the hitters to get in and trust fastball because they didn't know where it was going."
Long Beach opened the scoring in the top of the third on a Dylan Bursell single to left that scored Wescovich from second.
The Bearcats had a chance to blow the game open in the fourth, loading the bases with two outs on a hit batter and two walks. Center fielder Brandon Parker spared the Hurricanes a big frame, charging in to snag a shallow fly ball for the third out.
Long Beach center fielder Dalton Koza came up big two frames later. After West Harrison designated hitter Jay Farlow led off the bottom of the fifth with a single and advanced to third on an errant pickoff and passed ball. Two outs later, Woodcock lined a ball into the left-center gap. Off the bat it looked like trouble for the Bearcats, but Koza dove at the ball, rolled over and held it up in his glove for the out.
West Harrison ended up tying the game in the sixth. With Tate Parker on second and one out, Donaldson hit a grounder to short. Parker hesitated before taking off for third. After the Bearcats recorded the out at first, they tried to double-up Parker at third. The throw was off the mark, however, and allowed Parker to easily tie the game 1-1.
Brandon Parker led WHHS with a single and double Tuesday. Bursell's two singles led LBHS.
The two teams face each other at Long Beach on Friday with the region title likely hanging in the balance.
"They understand right now that they're one game back," LBHS coach Shane Rutledge said. "Hopefully we come out and practice with the energy of a team that has a chance to get back into the division lead on Friday."
First pitch is set for 7 p.m.