Jun. 10—CUMBERLAND — Allegany's strategy against big Southern left-hander Isaac Upole was obvious: attack the fastball and do so expeditiously.
The Campers followed their game-plan.
The squad from Cumberland dropped a five-spot in the first inning, and Allegany rode Eli Wallace, a lefty arm of its own, the rest of the way to beat the Rams, 5-1, in the 1A West Region I semifinals.
"It's good to jump on them early," coach Brandon Reed said. "We've seen Upole three times now, and he's a great pitcher. Our game-plan was, we knew what he brings early, so lets get the bats going early.
"Eli's been pitching great all season. We know what we get out of Eli, he's a first-team All-Area type of pitcher, and we know if we get him a couple of runs of support, it's going to be tough to beat us."
The Campers did all their damage in the first inning.
After Darian Bauer walked, one of his three free-passes Wednesday, Upole fanned the next hitter. Then five of the next six batters hit safely — the lone exception an error on a ground ball by Grant Cain who was initially called out, but the ruling was overturned when Allegany appealed that the first baseman's foot came off the bag.
The Campers batted around to take an early 5-0 lead.
"Allegany hit the ball. We made a couple of mistakes early," Southern head coach Dan Holler said, "it should've been a 2-1 ballgame. They had four or five legit hits there in a row and capitalized right off the bat.
"That's a nice team. Wallace pitched real well for them and they hit it when they need to."
Wallace took full advantage of his lead, pitching to contact and allowing his defense to make plays behind him.
The lefty didn't allow a hit until the third inning when Southern's Brysen Cowgill notched a single up the middle, and he eventually crossed the plate on an error on a tricky two-out grounder by Will Moon — the only damage to Wallace's resume.
With a line of one run, none earned, on four hits in seven innings of work, Wallace tossed his team to the region finals.
"I thought we played really well, we hit the ball really well in the first inning," said Wallace, who struck out five and walked two. "I knew I had to throw strikes, and I know my boys have my back. We got the job done."
The other half of the Allegany battery had a notable effort too.
Following Southern's third-inning run, catcher Matt Fuzie gunned down Moon trying to swipe second base to end the frame. The Camper backstop looked to be in synch with his pitcher throughout, a rapport that's years in the making.
"Eli's a great pitcher. I love Eli, he's like a brother to me," Fuzie said. "I've been catching him since Hot Stove, four or five years, we've always had a really good connection. A really good relationship.
"Our defense was good, we have a really good defensive team. Coach (Scott) Bauer always tells us, 'Let them put the ball in play because we're going to field the ball, we're going to throw kids out.'"
Allegany's big first inning was delivered by a plethora of hitters.
Fuzie kicked off the burst with a one-out double, and Cain plated the first run on an RBI error. The Campers proceeded to hit a trio of singles to the same spot in succession with Griffin Madden, Cayden Bratton and Alex Kennell each knocking liners to right-center.
Bratton drove in the Campers' second run, and Kennell plated a pair to break the game open at 4-0. Wallace capped the onslaught by pulling an RBI liner to left.
Kennell added a double in the third inning, the only other Allegany hit the rest of the way, to finish 2 for 3 at the plate.
"First pitch fastball, whatever fastball was near the zone I was just swinging at," Kennell said. "I knew (Upole) had a good curveball, and I just attacked the first good pitch I saw.
"Once we get the bats going it's hard to stop us."
The Campers only outhit the Rams 6-4, but Wallace's ability to battle through pressure proved to be the difference in the latter stages.
Southern had first-and-third with one in the fifth after Elisha Skipper and Cowgill — who finished 2 for 3 at the plate — hit safely; however, Wallace fanned two straight Rams to escape danger.
In the following inning, Southern had first-and-second with nobody out, and Wallace dug through it again unscathed with a pop-out, a strikeout and a flyout to right.
"We had opportunities in the game, got a couple guys in scoring position," Holler said. "We just didn't capitalize out of it. ... We had first and third, we had second and third. We just couldn't get the big hit to get them in there. That's pretty tough there."
"I tried to just block out (the runners) and focus on the batter," Wallace said.
On the other side of the mound, Upole settled down in a huge way. He seemingly got stronger as the game progressed; he recorded five of his seven strikeouts in the fifth and sixth innings and issued just one base-knock after the opening inning.
The West Virginia commit was tabbed with the loss after allowing five runs, four earned, on six hits in 5 2/3 innings of work. Tanner Haskiell retired Allegany's last batter on one pitch in relief.
With the victory, Allegany will face Northern in Accident tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. in the 1A West final. The area's top two teams split their regular-season meetings: the Campers won 9-0 on the road and the Huskies were 11-2 victors in Cumberland.
Following a rough patch at the tail end of the season, Allegany is going into Friday with renewed confidence.
"I expect another win," Wallace said. "I think we're going to go far and we have a great chance at a state championship this year."
Alex Rychwalski is a sportswriter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.