No. 4 East Hardy edges No. 3 Southern, 2-1

May 1—OAKLAND — Oakland has been the chaos capital of area baseball over the last week, but East Hardy put an end to Southern's string of late-game heroics.

The Rams, who had four walk-off wins in a seven-day span last week, seemed primed for another comeback after getting out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam to enter the bottom of the seventh inning down 2-1.

However, East Hardy right-hander Mason Hamilton slammed the door with a three-up, three-down frame to push the fourth-ranked Cougars to a 2-1 victory over No. 3 Southern on Tuesday evening.

"Well-played ballgame," East Hardy head coach Tyler Mongold said. "We had some mental stuff that we want to clean up before we start sectionals. ... We hit the ball well. Not as many hits as we're used to, but we hit the ball hard at them."

East Hardy (15-6) entered Tuesday's contest having scored at least 10 runs in 7 of 8 games, and the Cougars reached that threshold back on April 15 in a 10-2 rout of Southern in Baker, West Virginia.

Southern (11-5) used a platoon of arms to limit the white-hot East Hardy bats in the rematch, as four different pitchers combined to hold the Cougars to two runs on five hits.

The Rams' luck, however, finally ran out after winning four one-run games in a row over Northern, Frankfort, Petersburg and Keyser, all by walk-off.

"It was a really good high school baseball game," Southern head coach Hayden McLaughlin said. "I was really excited to see how we could compete after getting beaten pretty badly and somewhat embarrassed down at East Hardy a couple weeks ago.

"At the end of the day we have to compete and not give away at-bats. ... You can't strike out (nine) times and leave (seven) guys on base. You're not going to win games like that."

The Rams couldn't string together much against four innings of Shayne Sisler and three from Hamilton, and East Hardy took the lead for good after plating an unearned run in the sixth.

Hamilton launched a one-out double into right-centerfield, his second two-bagger of the game, moved to third on an error and scored on another Southern miscue.

Left-hander Cade Leader picked the runner off first base; however, a high throw during the rundown allowed Hamilton to score the go-ahead run from third.

East Hardy had a prime chance to blow the game open in the top of the seventh, loading the bases against Brayden Upole after back-to-back walks and an error.

Southern brought the infield in and got the first out at the plate, and it turned an inning-ending double play a batter later to preserve the 2-1 hole.

Hamilton would not be denied though, tossing a clean seventh to earn the victory on the mound. He allowed one unearned run on one hit with two strikeouts and no walks in three innings of work.

Sisler got the start for East Hardy and threw four innings of shutout ball on five hits. The right-hander struck out seven and walked one.

Southern's lone run came in the bottom of the fifth in a similar first-and-third situation to East Hardy's go-ahead score.

The Rams stole second with two outs, and East Hardy catcher Garrett VanMeter threw down to second. There was nobody on the other end of the throw, and Jared Haskiell scored from third to tie the game at 1.

"That's baseball. It's high school kids," Mongold said. "We just have to be the team that limits those mistakes the most. With our mental error, (VanMeter) isn't our normal catcher. (Logan Sager) is out with an injury. He's a freshman, he saw somebody stealing and he tried to throw him out.

"We don't normally throw down with two outs, but it's alright. We overcame it and got the win."

Haskiell and Jack Healy both singled twice for the Rams, and Ben Lohr doubled. Sisler tripled for East Hardy.

East Hardy plated its first run in the second on a two-out RBI single by JW Teets.

Southern used four different pitchers and none threw more than 30 pitches, meaning they'll all be available for the Rams' rivalry game with Northern on Wednesday.

Haskiell got the start and allowed a run in 1 2/3 innings, Ryan Bird retired all eight batters he faced, Leader surrendered an unearned run in 1 2/3 innings of work, and Upole tossed a scoreless seventh.

"We knew we'd have to mess around with the pitch count a little bit, keep everyone at a certain number, and I thought the guys took that well," McLaughlin said.

"It just helps their confidence knowing, hey, I can go in there with 15 pitches to work with and get out of an inning. Get 1 1/3, 2/3 and just being around the plate and being competitive with everything in their arsenal."

East Hardy hosts Tucker County on Thursday at 6 p.m., and the Rams are at Northern today at 4:30 p.m.

Southern's first meeting with Northern on April 19 began its string of late-game classics. The Rams trailed 5-2 in the fifth before Healy eventually walked it off in the seventh in the 6-5 victory.

Getting started early will be key for Southern in its final games before the playoffs. The Rams have already clinched the No. 2 seed in the Class 1A West Region I playoffs behind Allegany.

"We've got to start getting runs across the plate early and getting leads early," McLaughlin said. "Allowing games to come to us instead of having to fight back and crawl it seems for every run every game."

Alex Rychwalski is a sports reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.