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April 1, 2013

Central Region Week in Review: April 1, 2013

A weather-disrupted week made for a limited slate, but one with some important results nonetheless. Here's a look back at the key games from this past week:

James River 5, Clover Hill 4: The Rapids got a scare from Clover Hill, which nearly pulled off a major Dominion District upset. The Cavaliers forged a 4-3 lead in the fifth that held up until the bottom of the seventh, when James River rallied for two in a walk-off victory. Harry Lee Watson was 3-for-4 with a double, Cullen Large was 2-for-3, and Mac Caples came up with some timely hitting in a 2-for-4, 2-run, RBI game. On the Clover Hill side, Kyle Hasforth was 2-for-3 and Keith Roberts had an RBI double.

Meadowbrook 6, Hopewell 5: The Monarchs surged to a 6-1 lead after two innings, then held on for an important, one-run victory over Hopewell thanks to some clutch relief pitching by Chuck Lafoon. Lafoon also went 2-for-3 with a double. Khari Hubbard, who got the win, added 2 RBI for Meadowbrook as part of a five-run second, and Joseph Medina was 2-for-3. Hopewell's Drake Scearce was 2-for-4 and slammed a home run, while Zack Rivera was 1-for-3 with a double.

Prince George 3, Dinwiddie 1: Mark King's key hit in the sixth inning drove in two runs and broke a 1-1 deadlock, propelling the Royals to a key Central District victory. Jordan Nase added a 2-for-3 night for Prince George, which improved to 4-0 on the year. Dinwiddie's Jamar Hinton and Rashad Stewart were each 2-for-3, accounting for all four hits the Generals recorded on the afternoon.

Deep Run 6, J. R. Tucker 5: The Tigers lost a tough one to rival Deep Run, surrendering all six runs in the seventh inning to turn an apparent victory into defeat. Chase McPherson paced Tucker to a 4-0 lead with 5.2 shutout innings, striking out nine. However, Will Hodges (3-for-3 with a pair of doubles), Jake Connoly (2-for-4 with a double), and Jack Click (2-for-4) paced the Deep Run comeback, aided by some Tiger miscues and wildness in the seventh.

Hanover 4, Glen Allen 3: Derek Casey struck out 13 in five innings of work, as Hanover held on for an important 4-3 win over Glen Allen. Keith Searles led the Hawks offensively with a 3-for-3, 3-RBI game that included a home run. Andrew Knizner added a double, a triple, and the other RBI. John Richardson (2-for-4 with a double) and Kameron Simms (2-for-3 with a double and an RBI) had multi-hit games for Glen Allen and accounted for all but one of the Jaguars' hits.

Matoaca 9, Colonial Heights 4: A consecutive pair of four-run innings flipped a 4-1 deficit to a 9-4 victory for Matoaca in a contest that was closer than it appeared. Mack Krupp was 3-for-4 for Colonial Heights, but took the loss after running into trouble in the fourth. Jacob Bartlett tripled and stole two bases for Matoaca, while Rick Spiers added a 2-for-3 performance. This was a big win for the Warriors in district play, but, perhaps more importantly, it gave Colonial Heights an 0-2 start in the Central District.

James River 6, Monacan 0: Three James River pitchers combined to throw a one-hitter against Monacan, which has struggled to score runs so far this year. Harry Lee Watson paced the Rapids with a 3-for-3 day at the plate, and Cullen Large added 2 RBI. Alex Mullins got the lone hit for the Chiefs.

Midlothian 3, L. C. Bird 2: Jacob Moore had an RBI double and Matt Miller scored twice and stole a base as Midlothian recorded an important Dominion District victory over the Skyhawks. Rawlings Cumbea earned the win, pitching into the sixth before Del Fuller came on and got a save to secure the game. Darius Gillus was 2-for-4 for L. C. Bird.

Here's my new Top Ten (through games of 3/29):

The New Central Region Top Ten: (Last Week)

1. Hanover (2-1) . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

2. Cosby (2-1) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

3. James River (5-0) . . . . . . . . . . 3

4. Mills Godwin (4-0) . . . . . . . . . 4

5. Douglas Freeman (6-0) . . . . . . 5

6. Atlee (3-0) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

7. Matoaca (2-1) . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

8. Prince George (4-0) . . . . . . . NR

9. Lee-Davis (1-1) . . . . . . . . . . . 9

10. Dinwiddie (3-2) . . . . . . . . . 10

Dropped Out: #8 Manchester (1-1)

- - - - -

And, finally, here are some "Thoughts and Observations"

- It's supposed to be time for our first reshuffle of the season, but, unfortunately, the weather wiped out so many games this week that it's still difficult to tell much about certain teams. Nonetheless, I think what Prince George has done so far this year is undeniable. The Royals have knocked off Benedictine and three district foes (including tenth-ranked Dinwiddie) to get off to a 4-0 start. They take Manchester's spot in the Top Ten this week. Nothing against the Lancers, but they've only played twice and have only a win over a weak Monacan squad. For now, Prince George moves in at #8.

- You'll notice that the list of recaps above doesn't include games such as Godwin's 17-0 win over Thomas Jefferson or Prince George's 16-2 victory over Petersburg. As is my custom, after the first couple of weeks, I'm only going to include games that are either competitive or that are between competitive teams. So, if a city school is getting pounded by a Top Ten team, that isn't going to make the cut. On the other hand, a 5-3 game between TJ and John Marshall would, as would a blowout between, say, Hanover and Lee-Davis (if such a game happened).

I've had this policy forever, but sometimes people get confused as to why their son's 3-for-3, 6-RBI game against the district bottom-feeder isn't included in the recaps. The answer is that I'm only recapping the key games and the close games, not a dominant team pummeling a team that is basically helpless to do anything about it.

- As a corollary to that point, I should also add that game reporting is sometimes spotty with baseball, unlike football and, to a lesser extent, basketball. I check as many resources as I can to get results, but sometimes they slip through the cracks or don't get reported until the following week. That hasn't happened so far this year, but there are usually one or two games (especially over spring break, which is obviously this week) that escape my attention. Apologies in advance for the oversight.

The next in my series of Central Region baseball retrospective pieces is a look at the events that led up to the greatest championship game in Central Region history.

The year was 1982, the heyday of the most dominant program in the annals of Central Region baseball: J. R. Tucker.

Coming into the '82 season, Tucker had won five of the previous six regional championships, and three of the previous four state championships. The Tigers also boasted seven returning starters and most of the pitching from their 1981 Group AAA championship team.

Yet, even with all of that as background, there was a major threat to Tucker's title hopes, and it just happened to be the Tigers' biggest rivals.

Although Tucker had captured a third state crown in 1981, it was Douglas Freeman, not Tucker, that had won the Colonial District regular season title. In fact, the Rebels had actually gone undefeated during the regular year. Yet, Hopewell, with a decent but unspectacular 12-6 record, knocked off Freeman in the regional semi-finals by a 3-2 score, with the Blue Devils scoring all three runs in a disastrous sixth inning. Tucker topped Hopewell in the regional final, then went on to win the state tournament. That summer, many of the top players from both schools teamed up to lead West End Post 361 to the finals of the American Legion World Series.

That set the stage for 1982, with both schools featuring loaded rosters and state title aspirations.

Freeman again won the district's regular season title, adding the tournament title as well. Tucker lost only three games prior to the regional tournament, but two of those three were to the Rebels: One in the regular season, and another in the district tournament final. Freeman's only loss had been to Tucker.

This time, things shook out differently in the regional tournament. Staring at each other on opposite sides of the bracket, Freeman beat Monacan 6-1 and Tucker whipped Dinwiddie 11-1 in the semi-finals to set up a championship meeting between the two teams. Tucker's top pitcher, Terry Guzman, had not pitched in any of the three previous games between the two. Freeman's ace, Bob Dement, had been the victor in both of the Rebel wins over Tucker.

That all lead up to the most anticipated Central Region baseball game in years.

Played at Shepherd Stadium in Colonial Heights, it looked initially like it was finally Freeman's turn to go to the state tournament. It also looked like Guzman wasn't up to the challenge. He walked three Rebels in the opening inning to load the bases with one out. An error by star shortstop David Leonard then gave Freeman a 1-0 lead. Tucker wriggled out of trouble (and Freeman missed a huge opportunity) when Guzman induced a beautiful first-to-home double play that kept things at 1-0. He would pitch superbly from that point.

The lead held up until the third, when Tiger slugger and four-year starter Billy Gill singled, advanced on an error, then later scored on David Bratton's fielder's choice. In the following inning, Tucker left fielder Emile Dailey shocked Dement with a solo home run to left-center.

Coach Ronnie Atkins swapped Gill (normally the clean-up hitter) and Dailey (the usual #7 man) in the batting order for the first time all season in an effort to show Dement a different lineup, and the strategy paid big dividends in the form of that home run.

Despite Guzman's masterful pitching effort, Freeman wasn't finished by any stretch of the imagination.

Just an out away from elimination, the Rebels put together a last-ditch rally. Guzman issued a walk to Christ Tiller, and Oscar Talley followed with a single. With the tying run in scoring position, and the championship-winning run on base in the form of the speedster Talley, Bobby Palkovics stepped to the plate. Palkovics had arrived at the game in the fourth inning, since he also played for Freeman in the Central Region soccer playoffs the same day.

With the runners on the move, Palkovics slammed a deep shot to left-center that looked for all the world to be a game-winner. Guzman thought it was a home run off the bat. Yet, Bratton, Tucker's outstanding center fielder managed to track the ball down, barely, making a dramatic catch as he crashed into the wall.

The heartbreaking defeat sent Freeman to a still-excellent 18-2 final record, and capped the career of longtime coach Wayne Hoy, who retired at the end of the 1982 season. Dement gave up seven hits, but allowed only the one earned run on Dailey's homer. Guzman pitched even better, having allowed just three hits and no earned runs, striking out eight. Both earned All-Metro honors as the right-handed and left-handed pitchers, respectively.

The Tigers moved on to the state semi-finals, where Gill hit a walk-off home run to break a seventh-inning tie against Eastern Region champion Kecoughtan. Tucker then won the state championship by beating Oakton 8-3. Terry's twin brother Nieves started both games, the latter unexpectedly after Terry suffered a sudden and unexpected bout of appendicitis. The 1982 Group AAA crown was J. R. Tucker's fourth state championship in five seasons.

It should be another great season in the Central Region, and stay tuned to VirginiaPreps.com for all the latest news, information, and profiles you need to stay plugged in to Central Virginia baseball! You can connect with Tom on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/CRTomGarrett and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CentralRegionTom


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