At many different moments on a dreary Thursday afternoon, it looked like the Westhill baseball team would have to cede its Section III Class B title to someone else.
But the no. 2 seed and defending champions refused to blink in its Class B quarterfinal against Hannibal, and a timely late rally, with some help from the opponent’s defense, helped produce a 2-0 victory.
An hour’s rain delay did little to dampen the effort that both Warrior teams displayed, especially that of the guys on the mound – right-hande J.C. Pena for Westhill, left-hander Greg Pitcher for Hannibal.
Through five innings, it remained 0-0. Pena cruised, for the most part, until the top of the fifth, when Hannibal got a runner on third with one out, only to see Pena strike out Trevor Alton and, after an intentional walk to Jake Shortslef, get Chris Benedict to ground into a force play to end the threat.
Going to the bottom of the sixth, it was still 0-0 when Pitcher, who had yet to allow a hit, gave up a one-out walk to Ben Walsh. Then Jim Albright hit a deep fly ball to right field that dropped for Westhill’s first safe hit of the game.
Walsh, waiting to see if the ball got caught, started late, but looked to end up on third base – until he saw the ball fumbled in right field, allowing him to race home with the game’s first run. Albright ended up on third and scored seconds later on Dan O’Brien-Mazza’s single.
That was all Pena would need. In the seventh, two more Hannibal runners got on base, but Pena struck out Benedict to end the game, his 11th K.
As they started out on their respective Class B playoffs journeys – Westhill trying to hold on to the crown, Solvay trying to take it from them – it started quite well.