HAMILTON Landon Whitaker hit a soft roller to short and took off running with two out in the bottom of the 10th inning.
"I wasn't thinking, I just ran as hard as I could," the Hamilton left fielder said.
He beat out the throw in a bam-bam play and Chad Baty scored from third to give the Hamilton Lions an 8-7 win in the opening game of the state Class 1A championship series.
Baty (3-for-4) hit a double and set up the final run by stealing third.
Game 2 of the best-of-three series is 1 p.m. Saturday at Stringer (20-8), with Game 3, if needed, following immediately.
Hamilton (23-6) extended a 15-game winning streak against Class 1A competition. Its last loss to a 1A team was to East Union in the North 1A semifinals last season.
Tracey Cockerham (7-2) went the distance, striking out 14 batters in the game that had six lead changes and three ties. Joey Ward (8-3) got the loss in one inning of relief of Rusty Garrett, who struck out 12 in nine innings.
"They are a real good team," said Whitaker, who also doubled and scored in the bottom of the sixth to send the game into extra innings tied at 6-6.
Alan Moyer (3-for-5) reached on an error in the top of ninth and scored on a Rodney Jenkins error as Stringer went up 7-6. Moyer also had a chance to win the game in the top of the 10th but grounded out to strand two runners in scoring position.
Richard Hass and Brandon Kennedy led off the bottom of the ninth with back-to-back singles. An error by the outfielder on Kennedy's hit scored Hass and moved Kennedy to third. However, Kennedy was tagged at the plate on a wild pitch with the score 7-7.
Both teams will have plenty of pitching for the rest of the series, with Hamilton having two pitchers of its three-man rotation left. Stringer has four pitchers it uses regularly.
This is the Red Devils' fifth championship series in six years. They are looking for their fourth state title in that time. Hamilton has reached this level only once before. Nine menbers of that 1980 team were recognized before the game.
Cockerham struck out the side in the first inning, but not before two hits scored Moyer. Two Devil errors allowed Baty and Corey McKee to score for Hamilton in the second.
McKee's error in right field allowed Stringer to take a 3-2 lead on a pair of unearned runs in the third, as Garrett was able to turn a single into three bases on the miscue to score one run. Garrett came home on a Garrick McCarty sacrifice.
Hamilton evened it 3-3 as Kennedy led off the bottom of the third with a walk and went to third on a pair of throwing errors on a fly out. Josh West walked and was caught in a rundown but ended up on third as Kennedy was tagged out at the plate. West then scored on a wild pitch.
Moyer led off the fifth with a single, advanced on a steal and a grounder and scored on a wild pitch as Stringer went up 4-3. After Josh West hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the frame, Stringer regained the lead as Cockerham walked in a pair of unearned runs in the top of the sixth.
Hamilton 8, Stringer 7
Stringer 102 012 001 0 7 10 4
Hamilton 021 021 001 1 8 10 5
WP - Tracey Cockeryham (7-3). LP - Joey Ward (8-3). Multiple Hits - (S) Alan Moyer 3;(H) Chad Baty 3, Landon Whitaker 2. 2B - (S) Rodney Jenkins; (H) Whitaker, Baty. (H) HR - (H) Josh West (10). Records: Hamilton 23-6. Stringer 20-8.