POTOMAC PARK — Fort Ashby VFW, held to one hit in the series opener, had its hitting shoes on Wednesday evening, pounding out 15 hits and evening the Rec League championship series with a 12-4 victory over WEPCO at Holler Field.
Fort Ashby (19-2-1), the regular-season champion, and WEPCO (16-4-1), the defending league champion, split two regular-season meetings and the first two games of the best-of-three championship series. The deciding game is Friday, at 5:30, at Holler Field.
Every Fort Ashby starter hit safely in support of winning pitcher Zach Bradfield, who threw six solid innings. Dylan Wagoner went 3-for-4, Austin Cook tripled and singled, Jamison Jones doubled and singled, and Ryan Mackey and Tyler Conley hit two singles.
“Everybody hit the ball well tonight and I only hope it will carry over,’’ said Fort Ashby VFW coach Doogie Smith, whose team managed just a single in Game 1. “We know we can hit the ball, and there’s been a lot of games during the season when we’ve batted around in an inning.
“Our bats got hot and we needed that today.”
Cook, Mackey and Conley, the bottom third of the lineup, were especially effective, teaming for six hits, five RBIs and four runs scored.
“Tyler, over the last three weeks, has been one of our hottest hitters, and has a 4-hit game and a 3-hit game in the playoffs,’’ Smith said. “And Austin and Ryan came through for us again. In our semifinal series against North End, the bottom of the order hit really well, too. That’s very important.”
Dan Warnick hit a single and a two-run inside-the-park home run for WEPCO. Cody Malone doubled.
Fort Ashby broke a 2-2 tie with a pair of runs in the fourth, then blew the game open with a fifth inning that seemed to never end. The Vets sent 11 batters to plate and scored six runs on eight hits in building a 10-2 lead.
Conley, Ollie Douthitt and Wagoner began the inning with singles, with Wagoner knocking in the first run. An RBI double by Jones, a two-run single by Ethan Landis and an RBI triple by Cook made it 9-2. Mackey singled home Cook to complete the scoring.
The outburst was more than enough support for Bradfield, who escaped a few jams in the early going caused by shaky defense. Fort Ashby committed five errors in the first two innings, but allowed just two runs, one earned.
Bradfield got a 1-2-3 double play to get out of a bases-loaded situation in the first inning, and after WEPCO tied it 2-2 in the second, allowed only three hits over his final four innings. He walked three and struck out three.
“Zach threw very well, and I think we showed some mental toughness by overcoming all those errors,’’ Smith said. “To be in the game, against a team like WEPCO, after the start we had was a miracle. We stayed in it, and kept battling.”
Mike Mathews is a Cumberland Times-News sportswriter. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org