Behind Brody Ware's complete-game three-hitter and some strong defense, Vikings beat Green and advance to Friday's district final against Jackson

CANTON  Four runs were needed to win, Hoover’s Jeff Hite believed, heading into Thursday’s Division I district semifinal against Green.

That estimate was a little steep by the veteran head coach. His pitcher didn’t even let a Bulldog get to third base.

Sophomore right-hander Brody Ware tossed a complete-game three-hitter in beating Green 3-0 at Thurman Munson Memorial Stadium.

The Vikings (18-8) advance to face No. 1 seed Jackson in their first district final since winning it in 2013. That also was the last time Jackson, a 11-7 winner against Massillon in Thursday’s first game, didn’t win this district.

Ware stamped Hoover’s ticket to Friday’s 4:30 district final by striking out five and walking three in a 96-pitch effort. He moved to 5-0 on the season as he outdueled Green ace and Kent State recruit Jack Zimmerman.

“He just goes out there and competes,” Hite said. “If he gets behind, he bails himself out. We’re playing pretty good defense behind him, so that doesn’t hurt.”

The Bulldogs (17-5) lost five games all season. Two of them were to Ware, who shut out Green over five innings back in April in just his second career varsity start.

“The kid’s just a competitor,” Green head coach Jon Wallace said. “He’s not afraid of the circumstances around him.”

No. 3 seed Hoover and No. 2 seed Green each committed two errors Thursday. But not all defensive mistakes are created equal.

The Vikings played fabulous defense behind Ware before a couple of misplayed grounders blemished the linescore but did no real damage.

Green wasn’t so fortunate. A passed ball allowed Nathan Fox to score Hoover’s first run in the second inning. In the fourth inning, a booted ball at short allowed Nick Binnie to score all the way from second base. Binnie was on base only because a wild pitch got away on a swinging third strike.

“At key times, we didn’t take care of the baseball and that cost us,” Wallace said.

The Vikings turned a pretty 4-6-3 double play to get out of the first inning. They were even better in the second. Binnie charged a sacrifice bunt from his third base position and forced the runner going from first to second with a strong throw. Catcher Eli Blackledge gunned down a base stealer for the second out, leading to the 6-foot-4 Fox making a leaping catch of a line drive at first base to end the inning.

“Our defense was really important today,” said Fox, who added a tremendous pick of a low throw at first to end the sixth inning. “Brody had faced these guys one time already, so with them seeing him again, we didn’t know what to expect. But Brody pitched a heckuva game and we made plays behind him.”

Green left fielder Shea Simmer almost made a diving catch on what turned out to be a Damon Oprean double to start the top of the fifth. Blackledge followed with an RBI double to make it 3-0 Hoover.

That was the only earned run allowed by Zimmerman (5-2), who probably deserved better than being saddled with the loss. The senior lefty allowed five hits in going the distance on 91 pitches.

After Blackledge’s double, the Vikings went on to load the bases with no outs and were thinking about delivering a kill shot. But they got nothing more out of it.

Then a single and error to start the bottom half of the inning had Green sensing new life.

“You want to talk about quick momentum shifts?” Hite said. “… You could hear their dugout getting a little louder.”

Ware turned down the volume.

He struck out the next two hitters — the first on a called 3-2 fastball on the outside corner — and escaped with no damage done when he induced a ground ball for the final out.

Said Hite, “That’s a pretty mature young guy out there.”


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