By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Limited offensively this season because of a hand injury, Todd Coleman took advantage of an opportunity Saturday afternoon.
Coleman laid down a perfect squeeze bunt in the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring Druw Bowen with the winning run as Valley defeated Wyoming East 6-5 in a warmup game for both teams before the start of regional play.
Valley led most of the game before the Warriors tied it in the fifth and went ahead in the sixth. But the Greyhounds scored twice in the seventh to salvage the win.
Cody Winter and Bowen walked to lead it off, then the Greyhounds loaded the bases when Wyoming East pitcher Austin Canada fielded a bunt by Joe Eckert and threw late to third to try to force Winter.
Mark Hess grounded out to shortstop but Winter scored to tie the score at 5-5.
After John Riddle was intentionally walked, Coleman bunted on the first pitch he saw from Canada. Bowen scored easily and Canada didn’t bother throwing to first.
“It (the pitch) was just a little high,” Coleman said. “I just put it down so we could win the game.”
“Earlier in the year, he was having trouble getting the bunt down,” Valley coach Joe Craffey said. “The reason we did that was to give him a little confidence going into this regional in case we need it again.”
Coleman, a .414 hitter going in, has had his at-bats limited since hurting his right hand during a 12-11 win over Liberty on April 4. The injury did not require a cast, but he was unable to swing a bat most of April and played only on defense.
“I just had to get used to it after a while,” Coleman said.
Both teams probably had to get used to playing again. Valley (21-7) had not been in a game since sweeping the Class A Region 3, Section 3 tournament from Sherman on May 9, and the Warriors’ last game was the Class AA Region 3, Section 2 clincher on May 10.
It was the Greyhounds who showed the least amount of rust — if any at all.
They jumped on Wyoming East starter Derek Thornton for three runs in the first inning, including a solo home run by Raeshawn Breckenridge that traveled exactly 317 feet to right field — the high fly ball bounced perfectly off the top of the fence and went over for his ninth homer of the season.
Catcher Cody Winter threw out three runners trying to steal, reliever Joe Eckert started a 1-2-3 double play to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the second and Breckenridge made a leaping catch of a line drive by Thornton with the bases loaded in the seventh.
Meanwhile, Wyoming East coach Ron “Chief” Mayhew felt his team wasn’t sharp through the first four innings.
“That’s what happens when you’re off too long,” Mayhew said. “We woke up about the fourth inning. We had the bases loaded a couple of times, popped up, double plays. Dropping balls (on defense). Even at the end, we knew (the squeeze) was coming and didn’t execute. We’ve got to get it our of our system.”
The Greyhounds went up 4-0 in the third when Hess walked with two out and scored on an error.
That deficit was wiped away on one swing by Zack Whitten in the fifth.
With two on and one out, Canada singled to right field to load the bases off Eckert. Whitten then came up and drilled a grand slam to right center to tie the game at 4-4.
“We hit the ball pretty hard,” Mayhew said. “Derek hit it out there a mile and (Breckenridge) made one of the best catches I have seen made. We just didn’t hit when we should have.”
The Warriors (21-6) went ahead 5-4 in the sixth. Hunter Simmons walked with one out, moved to second on a wild pitch and took third on an error. He scored one out later on Tristan Toler’s single to center.
Drew Jones picked up the win, giving up one hit and no runs in relief of Eckert. Arik McGinnis started for Valley, striking out two and walking one in an inning of work. Whitten walked but was thrown out trying to steal second.
Eckert worked five-plus, allowing seven hits and five runs, striking out two and walking five.
Thornton worked the first two innings for the Warriors. He allowed eight hits and three runs while striking out two.
Both teams begin region semifinals Tuesday. Wyoming East will visit Independence at 6:30 p.m., while Valley hosts Man at 5:30 p.m.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
WE: 000 041 0 — 5 8 4
V: 301 000 2 — 6 9 1
WE: Derek Thornton, Christian Hedinger (3), Austin Canada (6) and Zack Whitten, V: Arik McGinnis, Joe Eckert (2), Drew Jones (7) and Cody Winter. WP — Jones. LP — Canada. Hitting — WE: Whitten 2-3 (hr, 4 rbi), Tristan Toler 1-1 (rbi), Thornton 2-4, Hunter Simmons 1-2, Chase Presley 1-3, Canada 1-3 (2b), V: Raeshawn Breckenridge 2-4 (hr, rbi), McGinnis 2-4, Winter 1-2 (rbi), Eckert 1-4 (rbi), Mark Hess 1-3 (rbi), Todd Coleman 1-4 (rbi).
Records: V: 21-7; WE: 21-6.