WATERFORD, Ohio — The road to a four-peat now has some potholes.
The Wahama baseball team opened league play in heartbreaking fashion Monday night following a 7-6 setback to host Waterford in a Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division matchup in Washington County.
The White Falcons (1-2, 0-1 TVC Hocking) overcame an early four-run deficit by scoring five consecutive times in the fourth and fifth frames, but the Wildcats (2-1, 2-0) rallied with three scores in the bottom of the fifth that ultimately resulted in a permanent lead.
Wahama — which has won at least a share of the last three league titles — mustered one more run in the top of the seventh to close to within 7-6, but the guests left the tying and go-ahead runs stranded at first and third when the final out was recorded.
The Wildcats jumped out to an early lead after plating two runs in the first and two more scores in the second frame.
Braden Bellville doubled home Bryce Hilverding for the first run of the night, then Bellville scored on a Clay Hayes sacrifice fly to center that led to a 2-0 cushion through one complete.
Brock Hayes led off the second with a single and later scored on a Noah Huffman single that resulted in a three-run edge. Noah Huffman later scored on a single by Isaac Huffman that made it a 4-0 contest through two complete.
The Red and White — which managed only four baserunners in the first three frames — finally broke through in the fourth as Philip Hoffman started the inning with a single, then advanced to third on a one-out single by Cass Kimes.
Tyler Bumgarner was hit by a pitch to load the bases, then David Hendrick walked to push Hoffman in for a 4-1 contest. Tanner Smith walked one batter later as Kimes scored to make it a 4-2 game midway through the fourth.
Colton Arrington led off the top of the fifth by reaching safely on an error, then advanced to second on a walk to Nyles Riggs. Both runners moved up a base on a Hoffman groundout, then Arrington came around to score on an error that allowed Dalton Kearns to reach base as Jacob Fisher — a courtesy runner for Riggs — advanced to third.
Both Fisher and Kearns ultimately crossed home plate on a two-out double by Bumgarner that gave Wahama its only lead of the game at 5-4 after four and a half innings of play.
Noah Huffman led off the bottom of the fifth with a double and scored one batter later as Isaac Huffman singled, which tied the game at five.
Huffman was forced out on a fielder’s choice by Hilverding, but Bellville followed with a two-run homer to left-centerfield that resulted in a 7-5 Waterford advantage.
Kearns started the seventh by reaching safely after being hit by a pitch, then Kimes singled to put runners at first and second with nobody out. That, however, quickly changed as Kearns was caught trying to steal third.
Peters advanced to second on a single by Bumgarner, then Bryton Grate delivered a two-out single that plated Peters and advanced Bumgarner to third while making it a 7-6 contest.
Waterford, however, got the next batter to strike out on three consecutive pitches — which wrapped up the one-run outcome in a pivotal early-season contest.
The hosts outhit Wahama by a slim 11-10 overall margin and also committed both errors in the game. The White Falcons stranded nine runners on base, while Waterford left only five on the bags.
Hoffman — the top senior baseball prospect in West Virginia and a Marshall University commit — suffered the tough-luck loss after allowing seven earned runs, nine hits and two walks over 4.1 innings while striking out three. Riggs also allowed two hits and two walks while fanning one in 1.2 innings of relief work.
Besides providing the game-winning home run, Bellville was also the winning pitcher of record after allowing three unearned runs, one hit and two walks over 1.2 innings of relief work.
Kimes and Bumgarner both led Wahama with two hits apiece, followed by Arrington, Riggs, Hoffman, Kearns, Grate and Edwards with a safety each. Bumgarner also led the guests with two RBIs in the setback.
Isaac Huffman paced the Green and White with four hits, followed by Bellville and Noah Huffman with two safeties apiece. Hilverding, Hayes and Jordan Welch also had a hit apiece in the triumph.
Bellville led the hosts with three RBIs and Isaac Huffman also plated two runs. Hilverding, Bellville and Noah Huffman also scored two runs apiece for the Cats.
Wahama hosts Southern on Tuesday in a TVC Hocking contest at 5 p.m.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.