By Gene Phelps
Special to the Gazette
ENTERPRISE – Cole Phillips struggled briefly on the mound in Friday night’s Division 4-1A showdown against Smithville.
West Union’s senior left-hander gave up a solo home run to leadoff batter Jared Johnson, then an infield single to Todd Cowley.
That was essentially it. Phillips one-hit the visiting Seminoles the rest of the way in the Eagles’ 10-1 victory that captured the program its third consecutive division championship.
“I knew I couldn’t get down,” said Phillips, who recorded eight strikeouts. “I had to settle in and just keep pitching. My defense was making plays.”
Phillips drew praise from his coach, Ashley Russell, following his performance.
“He didn’t get rattled. I was proud of his composure, just the way he battled,” Russell said. “In the middle innings he settled in.”
West Union (14-7 overall, 6-2 division) will be a No. 1 seed when the 1A state playoffs begin Friday. Smithville (11-6, 6-2), a 6-4 winner over the Eagles Thursday, will be a No. 3 seed.
“I’m extremely proud of my team and extremely proud to win the division, but we never talked about the division championship being our goal,” Russell said. “We’re going to take it game by game, series by series and try to get back to the North half championship again and give ourselves to win it this year.”
West Union won the division last season, but lost to Smithville in the North half championship series.
“We’re not done yet,” said Phillips, who helped his cause with two singles and an RBI. “We’ve got to keep playing hard like this and we can go far. I’m so confident in our offense this year. I’m excited about what’s in store for this team.”
West Union collected 12 hits against Smithville pitching, including a grand slam homer by Jerod McDonald in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Eagles answered the Seminoles with a three-run bottom of the first. Luke Willard’s RBI double and McDonald’s RBI single plated two of the runs. Dylan Gates drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
Sam Callicutt – who had two hits – singled and scored on a base hit by Phillips to make it 4-1 in the fourth. Boo Robertson added a single in the frame.
West Union also scored two runs in the sixth – before McDonald’s blast – on a bases-loaded hit batsman and a wild pitch that scored Reed Schiele, who had singled. Braden Willard added a double in the inning.
Ryder Willard added two singles for the Eagles.