By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
VIAN — One reason Vian will head down Interstate 40 later this week for their first state baseball tournament since 2007 — they had Warren Zachary roaming the outfield and the Morris Eagles didn’t.
The Eagles had a 2-1 lead in Monday’s Class 3A regional final here and were threatening to make it more when the fleet-footed center fielder made a grab in a dead sprint in the gap in right to end the inning. The shot, hit off the bat of Clayton Smith, left Ryan Smith on base rather than home with a certain run.
Then, the Wolverines began to punish Morris’ outfielders in what became a 10-2 victory for Vian, it’s third in as many games in the double-elimination tournament and its 16th straight this season.
Vian’s Dalton Morris laced a shot down the left-field line with one out in the bottom of the third. Rylee Simon then punched one over the head of right fielder Colby Deerinwater which one-hopped off the wall to score Morris.
Deerinwater then seemed to lose sight of Shawn Troutman’s Texas Leaguer into right. He froze up just as it dropped about three feet in front of him, scoring Simon to give the No. 2-ranked Wolverines (32-2) the lead for good.
Vian wasn’t done.
Jon Andrews then hit a long fly that sent centerfielder Matt Sebering in retreat. Sebering caught up to it near the wall and positioned himself for the catch. His arms pointed upward, the ball fell just inches away to the turf and was ruled a double. Denver Coffee then doubled to right, again just out of Deerinwater’s reach. Each double accounted for another run and the floodgate was open.
“That was a big turning point, from watching (Zachary) run that one down when we thought we might score a couple, then we turn around and don’t make plays we should make,” Morris coach Ed Yock said as his 20-10 team began the walk to the bus. “You can’t do that against a team as good as they’ve got.”
The rout was on.
Rylee Simon singled home a run in the fourth, Rowdy Simon did the same in the fifth before Zachary himself laced a shot to center that Sebering had a shot at but couldn’t find a handle on, adding two runs as part of another four-run blast, then scored himself on Landon Decker’s ground out.
The Eagles might have climbed back in it in the fifth had it not been for a well-timed visit to the mound by Wolverines assistant coach Albis Ramos to his starting pitcher, Troutman.
The right-hander had sandwiched two walks around a moment of indecision by Decker at shortstop when he bypassed a force play at second on a ground ball and threw late to first in a putout attempt on Ryan Smith. Clean-up hitter Garrett Totty, who had doubled and scored in the first inning, was standing in with 3-0 count when Ramos walked out for a chat.
Recalled Ramos after the game: “I told Shawn, ‘You know you got a good fastball. Throw the first away. If he swings, let’s go a bit away. If he swings again, let’s go a little more away,’”
Troutman followed those instructions word for word, getting two swinging strikes before a check on a pitch that had no more plate to cross for the third strike. He would retire the last seven batters he faced, four on strikeouts.
“I came out with a different mindset after that (talk),” said Troutman, who moved to 11-0 on the year with a six-hit, seven-strikeout effort. He walked three.
“I wasn’t feeling tired. I was a little tight before I started the game but at that point, I just needed to go to work.”
Nate Wynn drove in Totty in the second to give Morris a 1-0 lead. Coffee’s groundout scored Dan Weer, who led off the Vian second with a walk. Deerinwater, who singled to start the Eagles third, came home from third on a slow rolling grounder by Ryan Smith to Decker, who hustled to make the play at first but not quite in time.
The infield single set up Clayton Smith and subsequently, Zachary deep up the middle.
“Maybe a little bit,” he said with a big grin regarding his catch’s impact on the game. “Playing defense behind your pitcher takes a load off him. If he gets in a bad situation, him knowing he can count on who’s behind him always helps him out.”
Clayton Smith suffered his first mound loss in eight decisions, lasting 4 1/3 innings, giving up 10 hits. Wynn, the losing pitcher in the Eagles’ 7-6 decision against Vian in the winner’s bracket final on Friday, was not charged with a run in 1 2/3 innings, fanning Zachary after walked the bases loaded in the sixth.
Vian had 10 hits — Andrews was 3-for-3 with two bunt singles and a walk. Rylee Simon was 2-for-4, the Wolverines’ only other multi-hit batsman.
The game times for the state tournament will be announced today.