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May 13, 2013

Central Region Week in Review: May 13, 2013

Rain washed out over half the schedule, but the latter portion of the week saw some important district match-ups as we inched closer to filling out the regional tournament bracket. Here's a look back at the past seven days . . .

Hanover 10, Highland Springs 0 (5 innings): A nine-run third inning turned a scoreless tie into a rout as the Hawks cruised to victory. Matt Corley struck out nine in four innings of work to earn the win, as Hanover allowed just one hit in the game, a double by Jalen Carter. Hawk catcher Keith Searles was 2-for-2 with 2 RBI to pace Hanover.

Cosby 8, Monacan 1: The Titans trailed 1-0 in the fifth, but a pair of consecutive four-run innings allowed Cosby to win by a comfortable margin. Ryan Bickford threw a three-hitter, striking out three and walking none. Jake Huggins led Cosby with a 2-for-4, 3-RBI game, while Keenan Caldwell added a solo home run for the Titans. Monacan's Corey Ambers was 1-for-3 and drove in the Chiefs' run.

Mills Godwin 14, Maggie Walker 1 (5 innings): Nic Phelps was 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI, also throwing a five-inning complete game, as Godwin powered past Maggie Walker. Phelps allowed just one run on five hits, while he and his Eagle teammates produced 14 runs on 11 hits. That included a two-run homer by Aaron McGarity and a 2-for-4, 2-RBI day for Will Black. The Dragons' Frankie Celentano was 2-for-3 with a double and the Maggie Walker run.

Prince George 7, Thomas Dale 0: Cody Casey threw a three-hitter against his former team, striking out eight as the Royals earned an important district victory. Entering the game, the Knights were just a game out of first, but this win by PG gave the Royals a bit of breathing room (although they still led Matoaca by just one in the loss column). Brian Goodwyn had two of the three hits for Dale, going 2-for-3. Montae Bradshaw and Jordan Nase had two hits each for the first-place Royals. Nase also added four stolen bases.

Cosby 10, King William 3: Michael Flanagan allowed one earned run and struck out eight in six innings to lead Cosby over a good King William team. The Group A Cavaliers entered the contest with an 11-3 record, but the Titans broke open the game with a couple of big innings in the fourth and sixth. Tyler Fitzgerald drove in two runs and scored two more, while Brad McKay was 2-for-2 and scored a run. King William's Storm Coleman was 2-for-3 with an RBI.

Douglas Freeman 5, Patrick Henry 0: Daniel Lynch and Miller Trevvett combined for a one-hitter to grab an all-important Colonial District victory against Patrick Henry. Connor Melhorn led the Rebels with a 2-for-3, 2-RBI game, while Ethan Payne slammed a homer. Patriot standout Chesdin Harrington had the lone PH hit. Patrick Henry is the only team to have defeated Freeman this year, and this win gave the Rebels a two-game lead over PH in district play, and preserved a one-game lead over Godwin in the Colonial standings.

Colonial Heights 5, Prince George 4: Mack Krupp went the distance, overcoming some early Prince George runs to gut out a victory for the Colonials. David Markins was 3-for-4 for Colonial Heights, while Zack Stewart contributed 3 RBI. The Colonials trailed 3-1 after two innings, but Krupp pushed through, allowing just six hits in the game against the district-leading Royals. Prince George's Mark King was 2-for-4, while Tyler Procise was 1-for-2 with a two-run triple in the first inning that gave the Royals an early lead.

Hanover 11, Lee-Davis 1 (5 innings): Hanover scored in every inning but one, stopping rival Lee-Davis 11-1 in a slaughter-rule-shortened contest. John Gregory and Chris Gilliam were each 2-for-3 for the Hawks, who got a great pitching performance from Derek Casey. Casey allowed one run on three hits, striking out seven to pick up the win. Patrick Hollar of Lee-Davis was 1-for-2 and scored the Confederate run.

Dinwiddie 15, Colonial Heights 11: Colonial Heights led 8-1 after two innings, but the Generals rallied back for a 15-11 victory. Jamar Hinton was 2-for-3 with a double and 2 RBI, Jordan Claytor went 3-for-5 with 2 RBI, and Austin Mostoller was 2-for-2 with 2 RBI for Dinwiddie. The Colonials' Zack Stewart was 2-for-4 with a homer and 2 RBI. Carter Cox and David Markins also each homered for Colonial Heights.

Henrico 5, Highland Springs 3: Freshman Tyriq Branch gave up just three hits and struck out ten in a complete-game victory over Highland Springs. Marquis Johnson had a key, two-run single to give Henrico the lead for good in the fourth. Elliot Cliborne was 1-for-3 with an RBI of his own. On the Springer side, Jalen Carter had 2 RBI and Jalen Young was 2-for-4.

Patrick Henry 11, J. R. Tucker 0 (5 innings): It's not often that a player gets a walk-off home run with his team up 8-0, but that's exactly what the Patriots' Kyle Palmer did with his three-run shot in the bottom of the fifth that triggered the slaughter rule. Brandon Lloyd led PH with a 3-for-4, 4-RBI night that also included a homer. Tucker's Shawn Bellis doubled, but that hit was one of just four the Tigers had against Palmer, who tossed a five-inning shutout. Tucker had fared much better earlier in the week, cruising past TJ by a 13-1 margin.

James River 6, Monacan 5: A pair of three-run innings in the third and fifth allowed the Rapids to avoid another tough loss, as James River got back on the winning track by edging Monacan 6-5. Mac Caples and Stibel Aleman each hit two-run homers for the Rapids to lead the way. Monacan, however, rallied for a five-run fourth that put James River in a 5-3 hole going to the fifth. Jordan Staib doubled, tripled, and drove in three runs to pace the Chiefs.

Atlee 10, Varina 0 (5 innings): The Raiders powered past Varina with little difficulty to move into sole possession of second place in the Capital District. Taylor Crowe allowed only a hit to Blue Devil standout Darian Carpenter (1-for-1 with a stolen base) in the five-inning shutout. Caleb Myers of Atlee broke the game open with a grand slam that was part of a seven-run second inning. Dalton Ruch hit a three-run homer of his own for the Raiders.

Matoaca 13, Hopewell 0 (5 innings): The Warriors plated seven runs in the first inning and never looked back. Three Matoaca pitchers combined for a five-inning one-hitter, while Sam Smith led the Warriors offensively with a 2-for-3, 3-RBI day. The win helped Matoaca keep pace with Prince George with a week to go in the regular season.

Cosby 5, Clover Hill 1: Hunter Williams threw a one-hitter and Ryan Hall went 3-for-3 as the Titans won yet again. Williams struck out seven and surrendered zero earned runs for Cosby. A second-inning RBI single by Brett Jones was the lone hit for Clover Hill. Cosby's A. J. Nicely also drove in two runs.

Glen Allen 3, Lee-Davis 0: After topping Highland Springs with ease by a 10-0 score, the Jaguars got their second shutout of the week via a 3-0 victory over Lee-Davis. Chance Pauley scattered five hits and struck out ten, as Glen Allen moved a game ahead of the Confederates in the Capital standings. Luke Ransom was 1-for-3 and drove in a run for the Jaguars, while Lee-Davis' Kevin France doubled. Three Lee-Davis pitchers combined to allow only three hits, but that was still enough for Glen Allen to prevail.

Here's my new Top Ten (through games of 5/10):

The New Central Region Top Ten: (Last Week)

1. Douglas Freeman (17-1) . . . . . . . 1

2. Hanover (14-2) . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

3. James River (14-3) . . . . . . . . . . 3

4. Cosby (13-3) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

5. Atlee (13-3) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

6. Prince George (15-4) . . . . . . . . . 5

7. Mills Godwin (11-4) . . . . . . . . . . 7

8. Patrick Henry (10-5) . . . . . . . . . 8

9. Manchester (10-7) . . . . . . . . 10

10. Thomas Dale (10-4-1) . . . . . 9

Dropped Out: None

- - - - -

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

- I'm sure I'll talk more about this in the weeks to come, but, with the regional and state tournaments fast approaching, we're going to see pitchers used VERY differently this year than in any in history. The new VHSL pitching rule (which most baseball people don't like, because they use innings instead of pitch count) is going to create some odd decisions for coaches come tournament time. I

'll get into this more next week, but, for starters, the VHSL implemented this rule without changing the state tournament schedule. Barring rain, there won't be four rest days between the quarter-finals on Tuesday and the championship on Saturday. That means that no pitcher will start two games in the state tournament. Yes, technically, he could start twice if one of those starts was only three innings, but you get the point.

Put simply, as far as I can remember, there has never been a state champion out of the Central Region under the current format who wouldn't have been in violation of the rules. That means that we'll see some big changes for any team that has to play three games in one week.

- There wasn't a lot of change in the Top Ten this week. The top four teams stayed put, with none losing. I did consider flip-flopping Cosby and James River, however. The Titans have been ridiculously hot since losing to the Rapids 12-0 a few weeks back. If that game hadn't been so lopsided, I likely would have moved Cosby to #3 ahead of James River. The Rapids have lost twice in their last three games, and the third (this week) was a game they won just 6-5 against Monacan in a tight one. Meanwhile, Cosby is clubbing people. Since that loss, the Titans have won 10 straight, allowing one or zero runs in seven of those ten wins. The Titans and James River clash again this week with a district title on the line.

Atlee and Prince George traded spots after the Royals lost to Colonial Heights (but whipped Thomas Dale earlier). Godwin and Patrick Henry both stayed put. Manchester moved up to #9 after that 7-0 loss Dale sustained against PG. The toughest omission this week was 10-5 Matoaca, which is surging (as usual) with post-season approaching.

- Speaking of district races, the Colonial will come down to Friday's Godwin / Freeman match-up, with the Eagles currently a game back in the loss column. Hanover has essentially clinched the Capital District, but what's most interesting there will be the chase for the final playoff spot. Lee-Davis now has five district losses after dropping a game to Glen Allen on Friday. The Jaguars and Varina have only four (Atlee is safe with three losses). I would have to dig back through the record books to find the last time that Lee-Davis missed their district tournament, but my first thought is that it might have been before they were in the Capital District. The Dominion, as I just said, is down to Cosby and James River, but there's still a lot of jockeying for position to be done among the teams in the middle. The Central will come down to a showdown between Prince George and Matoaca.

- - -

As we enter the last week of the regular season, and with plenty of district titles still very much undecided, I thought it would be a good time to revisit what was unquestionably the wildest end to a season in the history of Central Region baseball: The 1979 Colonial District title race.

Let's set the stage. Here were the key "players" in this drama . . .

Hermitage: The Panthers were coming off a 5-10 year, but Coach Ray Garrett (no relation to the author) had seven starters back and looked like a major upstart. Among their top players were first baseman Doug Patterson, outfielder Dean Denton, and pitchers Bobby Williams and David Fitzgerald.

Douglas Freeman:Coach Wayne Hoy's Rebels had gone 9-9 the year before, which was a solid record in such a tough league. Freeman was expected to perform better in 1979, with standouts like outfielder / pitcher Connor McGehee, second baseman Gary Parker, and catcher Don Phillips.

J. R. Tucker: Tucker had won the state title in 1978, but this wasn't the loaded team the Tigers had had the previous two seasons. Still, with a couple of excellent players in shortstop / pitcher Matt Schibner and outfielder / pitcher Cam Frostick, along with a supporting cast that included catcher Robbie Robinson, the cupboard wasn't bare.

Henrico: Ace lefty Jerry Frostick was back for the team that had won the Colonial regular-season title in '78. He was also a fine first baseman, and was joined by shortstop Philip Fritz and second baseman Glenn Myers to form the nucleus of a good squad.

Lee-Davis: The Confederates had been a decent 12-8 overall but just 5-7 in Colonial play in 1978. However, Coach Micky Byrd had his entire team back except for one standout, and looked like a contender. Outfielder T. C. Atkinson, pitcher / designated hitter Johnny Gregory, second baseman Steve Walton, and outfielder Barry Hare were some of the top players.

The Colonial was incredibly strong under its old configuration, but never was that more evident than in 1979. A season's worth of nip-and-tuck battles among a district that was tough from top-to-bottom culminated in a very unlikely set of circumstances that nonetheless reflected just how competitive and deep the Colonial was.

Going into the final game of the regular season, the district standings looked like this . . .

Douglas Freeman (7-5)

Hermitage (7-5)

Lee-Davis (7-5)

Henrico (6-5)

J. R. Tucker (6-5)

The tie at the top had been triggered by a 7-1 victory by Hermitage over Henrico the day before, thank to a five-hitter from Bobby Williams. So, the loser of the Tucker / Henrico game would finish in fifth place, the winner in a tie for first.

High stakes already.

Tucker won 7-5 as Cam Frostick topped his cousin Jerry, giving the Tigers the final share of the regular-season crown. Tucker scored all seven of their runs with two outs.

That created an unprecedented situation: Remember, district tournaments were still a fairly novel concept in 1979. Now, the Colonial had to figure out what to do with a four-way tie and only one automatic regional berth to be awarded.

Here's what they did: The four co-champions (quad-champions) drew numbers, one through four. The two "evens" and the two "odds" would play each other at Tucker and Highland Springs (regardless of the match-ups). The winners of those games would meet two days later. Whoever prevailed in that game would be declared the winner of the Colonial's automatic berth to the regional tournament.

Once that business was taken care of, then the actual district tournament would begin.

Hermitage and Tucker drew each other, and the Panthers prevailed over the Tigers for the second time that season by a 2-0 score. This time, David Fitzgerald tossed a six-hit shutout and Trip Binns delivered two hits and scored both Panther runs. In the other playoff semi-final, Lee-Davis rallied past Douglas Freeman as Johnny Gregory threw a six-hitter of his own, although the Rebels did score four times in the 7-4 loss. Tucker won a coin toss following the games that gave them the #3 seed for the district tournament, with Freeman obviously getting the #4 seed.

In the playoff final, Lee-Davis prevailed in a back-and-forth contest, topping Hermitage 10-8. Gregory again got the victory, this time in relief as he came on in the sixth after the Panthers had plated five runs an inning earlier to tie the game 7-7. More importantly, Gregory slammed a three-run homer in the fourth and another three-run shot in the sixth to propel the Confederates to the crown.

With Lee-Davis' regional tournament berth secure, the district playoffs would now determine the other.

So, the same four teams began again. In one semi-final, Freeman scored six runs in the top of the eleventh to down Lee-Davis. Connor McGehee went the distance, allowing two Confederate runs on seven hits over those 11 innings of work. McGehee also reached base five times, on three hits and two walks. Amazingly, that six-run rally came with two outs and no one on base. Chris Parrish's two-run double and Darren Lynch's two-run single did most of the damage.

In the other semi-final, Hermitage, fresh off their tough, special playoff tournament loss to Lee-Davis, faced a team that was 1-2 against them in 1979. However, J. R. Tucker, now in an elimination scenario, topped the Panthers. The key was a strong relief performance from Schibner, who relieved Cam Frostick after Hermitage loaded the bases in the fourth inning with Tucker holding a slim 2-1 lead. Schibner got an inning-ending strikeout, then allowed just two more hits as the Tigers won 5-1.

The arch-rival Rebels and Tigers would meet in the district tournament final.

Tucker scored all of its runs during a third-inning rally, when a couple of hits and three Freeman errors led to three Tiger runs. The Rebels loaded the bases in both the fourth and fifth innings, but only a single (unearned) run scored.

So, down 3-1, Freeman had one last chance.

The Rebels got two on with one out, but a controversial play would help keep Freeman at bay. Tucker first baseman Lee Dickerson caught Eddie Ransom's pop-up while falling over a drainage ditch, which, from the Freeman perspective, should have made the ball dead. The umpire instead ruled that the catch had been initiated in fair territory, meaning that the Rebels now had two outs and had failed to advance the runners. Tucker got the last out when Jeff Pace's throw on an infield grounder barely beat Freeman's Don Phillips to first.

Bill Garrett (also no relation to the author) was the hard-luck loser, giving up just three hits and no earned runs. Tucker sophomore Dee Overton started the game, giving way to Frostick in the fourth, followed by Schibner in the seventh. They combined to hold the Rebels to four hits and no earned runs. Each team committed an uncharacteristic three errors, perhaps as a result of having to play what amounted to back-to-back tournaments immediately following still more crucial games at the end of the regular season.

When the dust had finally settled, Lee-Davis and Tucker had emerged from the wildest ending to a season as the Colonial's representatives in the regional tournament.

Epilogue: Lee-Davis fell to Prince George in the first round of the regional tournament, as Gregory struggled with some control issues. He didn't have his best stuff, giving up eight hits (but also striking out nine), with the bigger problem being seven walks and two wild pitches.

Meanwhile, despite a modest 11-8 record during the regular season, J. R. Tucker went on a run that created the reputation-slash-legend of Ronnie Atkins as "Dr. Tournament." With the Colonial Tournament title in tow, Tucker got a good draw with Maggie Walker in the first round of regionals, winning 12-1 as freshman Terry Guzman earned the victory with help from sophomore Bobby Mortimer in relief. Tucker then defeated Dinwiddie 4-2 in the semi-finals, and followed that up with a 7-3 win over surprise finalist John F. Kennedy with Guzman and Mortimer once again featuring prominently, but with Schibner getting the win after 3 and 2/3 innings of relief work and Steve Maloney's bases-clearing double providing the offensive spark. It was Tucker's fourth consecutive regional title, a feat that has never been matched.

In the state tournament, Tucker withstood a last-ditch rally by Eastern champ Western Branch, prevailing 3-2 behind a 5-and-1/3-inning relief appearance from Frostick. The next night, Frostick struck out nine and allowed no hits in another 5.1-inning relief appearance. Frostick also homered in the title game, as Tucker topped Woodbridge for its second state championship in-a-row.

The truth is that the Colonial District in 1979 had five or six teams that were nearly even. Anyone who survived that gauntlet was going to be tough come tournament time. For many reasons, we'll never see an ending to a season like we did in the '79 Colonial title race.

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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