By Rocky Higginbotham
Winston County Journal
Nanih Waiya’s perfect run through division play came to an unsuspecting end last Thursday with a historic loss to cross-county rival Noxapater.
But the Warriors are still the Region 5-1A champions, and they’re still headed to the playoffs.
Nanih Waiya smoked Noxapater 12-1 last Tuesday in their first matchup, then lost a 7-6 contest at home after a wild comeback in the seventh inning last Thursday. The split left the Warriors with a 19-2 record entering this week.
They were scheduled to host Union Tuesday in their regular-season finale before opening the MHSAA Class 1A state playoffs on Friday this week. But because there are only three teams in Region 7-1A, Nanih Waiya will receive a bye into the second round of the playoffs. Barring any rain-delayed brackets, the Warriors won’t hit the field again until a best-of-three series April 28-May 1.
In the loss to Noxapater last Thursday, Nanih Waiya fell behind 7-1 after the Tigers scored twice each in the first and third innings and three times in the top of the sixth.
In the bottom of the seventh, however, the Warriors roared back. They had five of their 10 hits in the inning, including a two-run triple from Dalton Luke to bring them within 7-5. They got within 7-6 and had the tying and winning runs on base with one out before Noxapater snuffed out the rally.
Luke finished 2-for-3 with the triple, two runs and two RBIs and Coley Taylor was 3-for-4 with a run scored to lead Nanih Waiya.
Austin Richardson was 2-for-3 with an RBI; Bryce Stanton had one hit, one run and one RBI; Ben Cumberland and Roper Ball both singled and scored; and Brady Jones had an RBI.
Jake Kight took the pitching loss, giving up five hits and four earned runs with three strikeouts in four innings. Ball and Cumberland finished up on the hill.
Last Tuesday, Nanih Waiya snapped a 1-1 tie with a five-run rally in the top of the fifth – then scored six more times in the top of the sixth and beat Noxapater by the run-rule, 12-1.
Jones had a grand slam homer and finished with four RBIs and a couple of runs scored, and he was also the winning pitcher. He went the full six innings, allowing only two hits and no earned runs while fanning five.
Stanton was 2-for-3 with a double and three runs scored and Cumberland was 2-for-4 with a run for the Warriors. Richardson doubled and drove in two runs; Ball doubled and scored twice; Luke singled and scored; Kight had an RBI and a run scored; and Taylor and Chris Smith each scored a run.