SOUTH CHARLESTON - Down 6-1 in the fourth inning and needing a win to stay alive, it looked bleak for the Hurricane 10-12-year-old All-Stars on Thursday night at South Charleston's Little Creek Park.
Hurricane forced a winner-take-all State Little League Championship Game by plating six runs in the fourth and going on to defeat Man 7-6.
With the win, Hurricane (4-1) set up Friday's clash for state championship banner and kept alive its hopes of winning its first state title since going back-to-back in 2008 and 2009.
Man (3-1), seeking its first Little League state championship of any kind, entered Thursday's game undefeated and in the driver's seat after Tuesday's 3-2 win over Hurricane in the winner's bracket final.
Hurricane had advanced to the championship round after coming out of the loser's bracket with Wednesday's 9-0 victory over Jefferson County.
Friday's game will the rubber game with the winner advancing to play in the Southeast Regionals, set for Aug. 2-7 at Warner Robins, Georgia.
Hurricane manager Todd Rigney said his team was able to bounce back from Tuesday's disappointment and getting into the five-run hole.
"We talked to the team yesterday. We lost to this great Man team a couple of days ago and the kids had their heads down," Rigney said. "It was the first loss that this team has had in a year and a half. They didn't take it too well. I told them to relax and enjoy the moment and wanted to make sure the kids enjoyed the situation. We played more loose today and when we did that we saw the real Hurricane baseball team."
Down 6-1 in the fourth inning, Hurricane came alive.
A one-out RBI single to center by Keagan Sack trimmed the Man lead to 6-2.
Leadoff man Wesley Sutton drew a bases loaded walk to make it a 6-3 ballgame and Carson O'Dell followed with a two-run double to right center as Hurricane cut Man's lead to 6-5.
Then came the game winning hit as Weston Smith ripped a two-run double past Man third baseman Casey Paynter into left field, putting Hurricane on top 7-6.
"I told them when they were in the box to relax and not squeeze the bat as tight as they were the last time we played them," Coach Rigney said. "You could tell today. They had smiles on their faces when they went into the box. The result showed for itself."
Man was able to get out of the inning but the damage was done.
The Man All-Stars tried to rally in the fifth and sixth innings, putting two runners on each frame but Hurricane relief pitcher Brady Rigney was able to get out of each of the jams, sending Hurricane to the decisive championship game. Rigney had walked two in the sixth inning but then struck out Hayden Fraley and Paytner to end it.
Man had jumped on top 2-0 with a two-run first inning off Hurricane starter Brady Coleman. Catcher Cody Walls supplied both runs with a two-run single.
Fraley's RBI single in the third made it 3-0 Man. Braxton Messer, who had walked, later scored on a wild pitch and it was a 4-0 ballgame.
Hurricane cut it to 4-1 in the bottom of the third as Sutton walked and later scored on an error.
The Man All-Stars then upped the margin to 6-1 in the fourth with a two-run single to center by Walls. He was 2-for-3 with four RBIs for the game.
Man outhit Hurricane 12-6.
Braden Compton, Man's starting pitcher, was 2-for-3 at the plate as was Cameron Gerace, who came on to pitch out of the bullpen in the second inning.
Tracy Doty was 2-for-2 for Man. Gavin Cline and Fraley each had hits.
For Hurricane, Smith and Sack were each 2-for-3. O'Dell and Zane Quentrill each had hits.
Brady Rigney was credited with the win in relief, going 4 2/3 innings and allowing four runs on eight hits with nine strikeouts and four walks. Gerace was tagged with the loss for Man. He allowed seven runs on three hits with four walks and four strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings of work.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Man's 1969 State Little League runner-up team.
"This team practices very hard," Compton said. "We practice four hours a day and we've done it ever since we picked the all-stars. These boys love the game of baseball. I'd just like to put Man back on the map again. That's what we'd like to do."
Paul Adkins is thesports editor of the Logan Banner. Follow him on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner or email him at email@example.com.