NEW MANCHESTER - It was Vincent (Bub) Haddox Day on Tuesday at the Oak Glen Field of Dreams.
The junior righthander pitched a five-hitter and won his school's first regional baseball game with a dramatic walk-off home run (his 4th of the season) in the bottom of the eighth inning.
He also doubled and singled and scored both of the Golden Bears runs in the 2-1 extra-inning victory against Ritchie County in the West Virginia Class AA Region One semifinals.
"I don't try to do too much. I just try to help out the other eight guys that are out there with me,'' Haddox said while cleaning the dugout floor following the game.
Haddox found himself in a pitcher's dual with D. J. Burgess, the Rebels' senior righthander. Burgess, who is being recruited as a pitcher by several Mountain East Conference colleges, gave up eight hits, struck out four and walked one in the losing effort.
" 'Bub' is a heck of a ballplayer," said Golden Bears coach Mat DeVeaney, whose junior walked 2 and struck out 7. "I was glad he was leading off there in the bottom of the eighth because they intentionally walked him earlier. He did what he needed to do. He took it on his own and really led the team."
Haddox was on base all four times he came to the plate. The left handed hitter got the first hit of the game, a single in the first inning, tripled and scored in the fourth, the intentional walk in the fifth and the home run.
"That's expected of him day-to-day," DeVeaney continued. "He's a heck of a ballplayer and that's what he puts out there every day. It was a good effort by him and everyone else on the team. A very sound effort all the way around."
DeVeaney's club moves on to play host to the regional title game at 5 p.m. Thursday.
The Golden Bears took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning as Haddox led off with a triple up the left centerfield gap. The next two batters popped out, but senior Tyler Steed ripped a single up the middle that nearly took the glove off of Burgess as he tried to snag the hot shot as Haddox trotted home from third.
The Rebels answered quickly in the top of the fifth sending seven batters to the plate, but scoring a lone run to tie the game.
Sophomore Rayce Bolin, who started the game as the designated hitter, but moved to first base in the fourth inning, reached on an error. Another Oak Glen error with two outs, got him to second base and when Seth Cottrill walked, Haddox found himself with the bases loaded.
His mound opponent, Burgess drilled a sharp single to left field that scored Bolin from third, but the other runners moved up just one base when Golden Bears left fielder Alec Swiger quickly got the ball and threw a strike to home plate. Haddox got out of the jam by inducing Andrew Davis to bounce to the shortstop for a fielder's choice.
"I told the kids after the game that the game of baseball is like life, you have your ups and your downs," said Ritchie County coach Dan Vanoy, whose team closed out the year with a record of 19-13. "You have to make good on the times you have opportunities to come in and I think that's where we fell a little bit short.
"We didn't execute the bunt. We had the safety squeeze on and we didn't get the runner in from third. Then, there was a couple of times we had a runner at second with no outs and I wanted to move them to third, but we couldn't get the bunts down. Just those little things are important in playoff baseball especially in a game like this against a good team."
One of those times that Vanoy's Rebels got a runner to second with no outs was in the top of the eighth inning. Burgess, who was the only Rebel with two hits, crashed a double off the left field fence, but was left stranded there as Haddox, who threw 120 pitches in the game, reached down to shut the door by striking out Davis, getting Tyler Reed on a popup to the second baseman and fanning Trevor Shepler.
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Golden Bears threatened to break the game open. They had the bases loaded when senior catcher Trey Smith cracked a shot to the gap in left center field only to have it caught on a spectacular diving catch by Ritchie County center fielder Seth Cottrill.
In the sixth, Oak Glen's Alex Wedgewood led off with a double. Tyler Steed followed with a fly ball to right field, but Wedgewood was called out when the Rebels appealed. Then, in the seventh inning, Frye doubled and went to third on a wild pitch. He tagged up on Cottrill's fly ball to left field and appeared to have scored the go ahead run, but Oak Glen made the successful appeal that he left third base too soon.
"It is unusual to see two of those plays in a game and it may have changed the outcome, but it was exciting in the end, and now we have to move on to the next one," DeVeaney said.