Brandon Bell hits a two-run home run to spark Whitewater to an 8-2 game one win over North Hall. (Staff Photos by Christopher Dunn)

IMG_8174aThe Whitewater Wildcats left little doubt that they don’t intend on stopping anywhere short of a state baseball championship, dominating the North Hall Trojans to sweep their best-of-three set on Tuesday night.
After needing a deciding third game to get past a tough Pike County squad last week, the Wildcats took care of business immediately against North Hall.
“I think we carried over a little bit from last week,” said coach Rusty Bennett. “Offensively, we swung the bats really well against a very good pitcher in the first game, then it carried over into the second game for us.”
It was a balanced effort for the Cats as they piled up 18 runs, while giving up just three.
Starting pitchers Jake Lee in game one and Ethan Gillis in game two were hitting all of their spots. Both tallied double-digit strikeouts, and neither allowed an earned run.
“Obviously, pitching is our strong point,” said Bennett. “We’ve done it all year, and I don’t expect any different, but it only gets tougher from here.”
In a series that saw virtually the whole roster get on base, two players in the lineup carried heavy weight. Third baseman Brandon Bell, the number three hitter, drove in four runs in game one, including a two-run homer, and five overall. Designated hitter Miles Jones, the cleanup hitter, put game two out of reach with a mammoth grand slam.
“When you get big ones like that from those two guys in the order, we’re not going to lose,” said Bennett. “When we’re hitting, we’re going to win most of the ballgames.”
Wrapping up the series a day early is an added bonus for the team. They will not be back on the field until they open the semifinals with a Monday doubleheader.
“It’s good, especially in this part of the playoffs, to come in and get the first two (wins) and relieve some pressure,” said Bennett.
It was actually North Hall that grabbed the early momentum in the opener, as the Trojans took advantage of Wildcat errors in the third and fourth innings to take a 2-0 lead.
Whitewater responded with a big blast in the bottom half of the fourth. Tyler Doanes led off with a single, bringing Brandon Bell to the plate. Bell smoked a two-run shot to left field to tie the game.
The Cats surged ahead in the fifth inning with four more runs. Jared Gresham led off with a single before Tyler Burdette and Doanes walked to load the bases. Bell drove in pinch runner Austin Gardner and Burdette to put the Cats in front. JD Norred followed with a two-run triple to make it a 6-2 lead and put the game out of reach.
Whitewater added two more insurance runs in the sixth inning, one each from Doanes and Miles Jones for an 8-2 victory.
Game two was all Whitewater from the outset.
Burdette led off the game and scored on a Bell RBI triple. Jones followed up with an infield sacrifice for a 2-0 lead. The Cats picked up two more in the fourth inning, one on an Avery Roth RBI bloop and one on a Doanes sacrifice.
Whitewater did the big damage in the top of the sixth inning. Roth walked, Levi Whitlock singled, and Burdette drew a free pass to load the bases. Doanes plated one, but there was more work to be done. Miles Jones launched a towering grand slam to right field to clear the bases and stake his team to a 9-0 lead. For good measure, Norred plated one more on a single for a ten run cushion.
Ethan Gillis gave way to the bullpen after five dominating innings. The Trojans got to the pen for one run in the sixth in a 10-1 Whitewater victory.