ASHTON – Once Eastland stopped being so charitable, it seized what was within its grasp – another regional title.
The Cougars overcame leaky defense with a six-run outburst in the top of the fifth en route to a 12-4 victory over Amboy on Saturday in the Class 1A AFC Regional title game. It’s Eastland’s fourth title in the past five seasons.
“This is one of our goals, but we’ve got a lot bigger goals,” senior pitcher Ty Hartman said. “To get back to state like we did 2 years ago would be great.”
Eastland (15-7) took a 3-0 lead in the top of the second inning, then saw Amboy (14-17) respond with a run in the second and three more in the third. Three errors by the Cougars fueled the Clippers’ attack.
“I wasn’t afraid of our offense at all,” Eastland coach Weston Burkholder said. “I was more worried about our defense and if we were going to sulk and complain about what we just did. I got on them. I told them [Amboy’s] four runs were all unearned. How many more do you want to give them?
“They answered, didn’t give them any more, and then we got the sticks going. It was a great response to my comments, and the team showed a lot of heart.”
Ramsay Truckenmiller started the top of the fifth with a walk, and he scored on a double by Austin Young. Hartman followed with a sacrifice bunt, then Marshall Fink delivered the go-ahead single to score Young.
Chase Giedd then doubled to score Fink. The No. 8 and 9 hitters in the Eastland lineup, Nick Simpson and Matt Keppen, drew walks from Amboy starter Taylor Ikens, who also had a balk and wild pitch in the inning before being lifted for reliever Chuck Deininger.
Devin Hartman capped off the inning with a two-run single to put Eastland ahead 9-4.
“For four innings, I thought it was ours for the taking,” Amboy coach Chris Newsome said. “They hit the ball, we put a couple of guys on, and it just kind of snowballed. We’ve been fighting that all year.
“I thought we did enough things to win, other than that one inning.”
Eastland rapped out 15 hits, with Young (4-for-5, 3 RBI) and Devin Hartman (3-for-4, 3 RBI) leading the way. All but one regular, Simpson, got at least one hit, and he walked twice and scored two runs.
Ty Hartman (6-0) went the distance, allowing one earned run and three hits, while striking out 13.
“My dad [assistant coach Dale Hartman] kept asking me, ‘How’s the arm?’ and I told him I’m going to finish the game no matter what,” Ty Hartman said. “He asked me around the fifth, and I just told him to leave me in. They kept warming guys up, but I was going to finish it.”
Star of the game: Ty Hartman, Eastland, 7 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 13 SO, 4 BB
Key performers: Austin Young, Eastland, 4-for-5, 2B, 3 RBI, R; Devin Hartman, Eastland, 3-for-4, 3 RBI, R
Up next: 1A River Ridge Sectional, Eastland vs. Scales Mound/River Ridge, 6:45 p.m. Wednesday