I've always said you can judge the importance of a ball game by the number of media outlets there to cover the action! I had mentioned Craig Juer (NVD) and Bill Meade (PN&C) but that was just the tip of the ice burg. Greg Brill was there to represent the Winchester Star, John Galle covering the Rams for the Shenandoah Valley Herald and Ace camera lady Rebecca Carter was
snapping pictures for Around The Valley in 60 Days.
I had the best seat in the house for two reasons- (1st) I was sitting next to Mr. Craig Orndorff and he's as good with play-by-play as anyone around. (2nd) The broadcast booth/table is only about 10 feet removed from home plate!
The crowd was every bit as big as I had expected. Strasburg AD Matt Hiserman estimated the gathering at 700-750 with a fair amount of Luray maroon mixed in with the home team purple.
Luray (25-1) sent Ryan Carroll to the mound which sent me in search of Mr.Carroll to ask him when the last time Ryan pitched. The answer was exactly 4 weeks earlier (May 2) against Stonewall Jackson. I am used to seeing Ryan stationed at 3rd base but was happy to hear he won that game 9-2 over the Generals.
Strasburg (21-3) countered with their number 3 starter, senior T.J Downey. Downey charged out of the gate by retiring the Bulldogs 1-2-3 in the top of the first inning. The McDonald brothers got to Carroll in the home half of the first when Timmy crushed a double of the wall and Riley singled him home for a 1-0 lead.
Carroll helped his own cause when his RBI single scored fellow senior Billy Foley. Foley led off the frame with a double to start the rally and Brad Painter ended it when he ripped a 2-run home run to give LHS a 3-1 lead. Johnny VanWyck stretched the lead to 4-1 in the third when the speedster swiped one of his three bases and came around to score when Foley reached on an error.
Carroll suffered thru the bottom of the third inning when his defense had a brief lapse. Strasburg makes a living capitalizing on their opponents miscues and tonight was no different.The Rams sent 9 batters to the plate and 5 of them touched the plate before Luray could put out the fire. Two errors, two walks and a bleeding single were all wrapped around a RBI double by Riley McDonald.
You have to give Carroll credit for pitching thru the breakdown and keeping Luray in the game by retiring T.J Downey on a sac fly and Josh Kibler on a line drive. The damage was done and the Rams were back ahead 6-4.
The teams traded runs in the fifth inning but both teams just missed an opportunity to take a big lead. VanWyck scored the second of his three runs with a single and a stolen base. The center fielder came around to score when Painter picked up his third RBI on a bloop single. Painter gave the Bulldogs a bases loaded situation with just one out but Justin Rush slammed the door for the home team. Rush relieved Downey in the fourth and the junior recorded back to back strike outs to keep the Rams ahead 6-5.
Carroll allowed the first two Rams hitters to reach base in the fifth inning on a single and a walk, sending LHS skipper Steve Griffith to his bullpen. Sophomore Daniel Runyon issued two walks of his own, the second one plated Alex Pfeiffer. Trailing 7-5 and facing the heart of the Rams line up with the bases loaded would be pretty scary for even a seasoned veteran but Runyon proved up to the task. Timmy McDonald sent a shallow fly ball to left field and Riley McDonald followed with a deeper fly ball to right field but that was the third out of the inning. I hope to ask Griffith later if he has ever had a pitcher record two bigger outs?
LHS still was facing a 7-5 deficit and Rush was looking almost UN-hittable. Rush opened the top of the sixth by retiring J.P Kelley and Lucas Dickson on a pair of routine ground balls. The Bulldogs were four outs away from taking a long bus ride to Essex for their Elite Eight game when the speedy VanWyck beat out an infield single and you guessed it- swiped second base.
Jeremy Leake came to the plate 0-for-3 despite ripping the ball twice and proceeded to stroke a double to plate VanWyck to cut the lead to 7-6. A walk to Foley and a wild pitch put Bulldogs on second and third for Carroll.
I looked over at my broadcast partner Craig and predicted big things for young Carroll. Craig asked me what my logic in the prediction was and I simply responded by saying-"The previous times Ryan came to the plate he was hitting as a pitcher but this time he came to the plate as a power hitting third baseman."
My logic worked earlier when I had told Craig that the key to the Bulldog line-up was VanWyck is quick so he has to get on base and cause some havoc. So now I needed my power hitting third baseman to deliver...
Carroll stroked a double down the right field line to plate Foley and Leake, giving Luray the lead once again at 8-7. I had yet to stop patting myself on the back when Painter hit a line drive single and T.J Noser beat out an infield single to plate Carroll. A walk to Chad Duncan loaded the bases and Kelley sent a deep fly ball to left center field that Josh Kibler appeared to have a beat on before loosing his footing. The ball went to the wall for a 3 run double and the Luray lead stood at 12-7.
Strasburg had rallied back all season and twice in the Region B play to defeat Wilson and Appomattox but this time they would have to do it against Leake. Leake had pitched just 4
innings on Wednesday against Chatham and he took the ball from to Griffith to start the bottom of the sixth inning.
Leake struggled with his first three pitches before settling down to strike out the side. Leake made it four straight K's when he fanned the lead off hitter in the bottom of the seventh. Kibler managed to stroke a two out double but Luray captured the Region B crown when Leake retired Zach Cover on a pop-up to second base to end the game.....
Notes and Quotes will follow and I am still hoping to speak with the winning skipper after he makes it home. Bill Meade, Craig Juer and Greg Brill were all waiting to speak to Griffith and two of the three were/are up against a dead line. I have a great deal of respect for all the above and I encourage you to check out Craig @ www.nvdaily.com and Greg @ www.winchesterstar.com once their stories post in the a.m.
Also grab a copy of the Page News & Courier and the Shenandoah Valley Herald next Wednesday when they hit the street.
One more thanks to Mr.Orndorff for letting me come along for the ride!