West Morgan sweeps into quarterfinals
By Bradley Handwerger
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TRINITY — Daniel Korpi pitched his way out of a bases-loaded jam three times Friday evening, and in so doing, pitched West Morgan into the state baseball quarterfinals for the first time since 2001.
Behind Korpi, the Rebels defeated Fyffe 9-4 in the nightcap of a second-round doubleheader. West Morgan won the first game 8-5.
Fyffe left 15 baserunners stranded in the deciding second game, including loaded bases in the second, fifth and sixth innings.
West Morgan (28-8) now faces the winner between Ranburne and Pleasant Valley in a best-of-three beginning Friday.
"I'm just glad we won because they had a good team," West Morgan coach Todd Stephens said. "I think we're fortunate. We got out of a lot of jams, especially in that last game. They never gave up and kept battling to the end."
While the opener was all about the Rebels' power — they hit four homers in the game — the second was about defense until their bats could get going in the fifth inning.
Fyffe (20-8) took a 3-0 lead in the first inning, and with its ace Dustin Bryant on the mound, the thought of a Saturday if-necessary game didn't seem all that far off. Allowing Fyffe to load the bases in the second inning certainly didn't help the stomachs of the Rebels' backers.
But Korpi struck out Patrick Whitten looking to pick up the third out, a little foreshadowing of the future.
West Morgan picked up a run in the fourth when Brent Lea's single drove in Korpi.
Then, in the fifth, the wheels came off for Bryant. Stephens' club was the benefactor.
West Morgan, using two walks and a throwing error, scored five runs on three hits to take a 6-3 lead.
Fyffe tried to answer, loading the bases yet again because of an error and two walks. But Korpi picked up the third out when Fyffe's Taylor Thrash flied out to center.
West Morgan and Fyffe each added runs in the sixth, then the Rebels put the game and the series away with two runs in the seventh.
"We just didn't come through and drive in runs when we needed to," Fyffe head coach Paul Benefield said. "They the ball well until something came through for them."
He added, "We've got to get two-out hits. That's the name of the game."
Korpi settled down after the first inning, picking up his location as the game went along.
"I was leaving all my pitches up," he said. "I started locating better and getting the pitches lower."
For the game, Korpi allowed seven hits while striking out 10 and walking six.
Lea went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, and Josh McAbee was 2-for-3 with a single and a double.
Fyffe also took a lead in the opener, leading 2-0 after the top of the first. But West Morgan chased Fyffe pitcher Chris Graben from the mound in the third after shelling him for five runs in two innings.
West Morgan's Tyler Jones walked to begin the second inning. He wasn't on base long, though, as Michael Clem connected for a two-run homer to tie the game.
After Corey Asher struck out, Tyler Rogers singled. Like teammate Jones, he wasn't at first long, coming home when McAbee blasted a home run more than 375 feet over the centerfield wall.
Then, in the third, Jones led off with a blast over the leftfield wall, giving West Morgan a 5-2 lead.
Clem then walked, stole second, moved to third on a ground-out by Asher, then came across home plate on Rogers' bloop single to right.
West Morgan added another run in the fourth and one in the sixth, and Rebels ace Anthony Atemon kept Fyffe at bay. Atemon pitched seven innings, striking out seven and giving up seven hits.
Now West Morgan awaits its opponent.
If Ranburne wins, the Rebels are home Friday. If Pleasant Valley wins, West Morgan goes on the road.
Regardless of who the opponent is, Korpi is certain this much: "If we play the way we can, we should be able to win," he said.
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