What a night up in the Crows Nest over in New Market! The night started out well with a visit from Mr.Tim Tassa from the Northern Virginia Daily. Tim started the game out on the deck with Tony Mowat and me though he was smart enough to move indoors when the rain starting falling harder. Tim is a staff writer for the NVD and the recent grad from WVU always has a pleasant disposition about him when our paths cross.
Dallas Alkire took the night off after the offensive explosion the night before against Covington where the Rebels hung a 10 spot in the bottom of the first and held on for a much needed 16-9 victory over the Lumberjacks. Tim took the chair Dallas normally occupies and we enjoyed having him there until the weather broke. After 10:00 a.m. Thursday you can read Tim's gamer at http://www.nvdaily.com/ . I was happy that the last pitch took place at 10:01 PM to give Tim & Sports Editor Chuck McGill ample time to frame the effort.
The other bonus treat in the Nest came from Mr. Jay Hefner calling the game with us. Jay is the fifth member of our rotating panel in New Market and he really adds something to the web cast. I have been around the league and listened to all of the radio and web personalities in the VBL and I think it is safe to say that when Jay is in the Nest with us we hold our own with anyone in the league. The insight Jay brings from having pitched in college as well as spent his entire life around the game is a bonus for us to have in the Nest!
Let's get to the ball game- Earlier this week Nick Stanley arrived in New Market fresh off his Wolf Packs' (NC State, not Nevada) extended stay in the NCAA tourney. NC State hosted a regional earlier this month and Nick also kept a blog thru his teams stay in the NCAA's. You can visit the blog my going over to John Leonards sight ALL THINGS VALLEY LEAGUE and using the link to connect over to his writing.
Nick described the experience to me as awesome. "I had a really good time and hosting the regional was the funnest two weeks I've had."
NC State advanced to face Georgia in the Super Regional but the Bulldogs prevented the Wolf Pack from making the trip to Omaha. Georgia has continued to shine in Omaha by winning the first two games of the tournament and are currently in the drivers seat in their bracket.
Tonight Nick was behind the plate with the responsibility of calling the game for Stephen Owens. Owens is listed as 6'9 righty from the University of Richmond. At one point during the game when Owens leaped to pull down a Baltimore chop over the mound, the Spider made the throw to first to Murray Watts. Watts (Arkansas State) is listed at 6'7 and we were quick to comment that the duo on that play might of set some sort of record in the HISTORY of baseball for the tallest out ever recorder!
Owens stats coming in were 0-1 with an ERA of 5.11 in his two previous starts but the young man from Sykesville, Maryland simply stole the show the entire night. Owens red-shirted last season at U of R following arm surgery so the Rebel coaching staff was keeping an eye on his pitch count. Owens helped his own cause by needing all of 5 pitches to retire the Cardinals in the top of the first inning.He helped his own cause my making a great fielding play on a ball hit back up the middle by Jesse Henry. Owens turned and quickly fired the ball over to third baseman Zach Maxfield and the Rebels retired Casey Albanese on a 1-5-6 rundown play. Albanese had stroked a first pitch double prior to the first pitch grounder from Henry.
New Market gave Owens some breathing room in the bottom of the third by scoring three runs on just two hits. Brandon Kirsch and lead off hitter Kevin Dietrich walked to start the rally and advanced on a past ball to give the Rebels runners at second and third base. The next 3 hitters each collected a RBI as Mike Mooney singled, Stanley grounded out and Maxfield singled to score Mooney. With a 3-0 lead in hand, Owens went back out to pitch the fourth inning.
"I got thru three innings and things were going well after some mistakes in the first," Owens said. "As soon as we got three runs on the board I was able to breathe a little easier. Last night we scored 10 runs in the first so I knew we would eventually get the offense going,"
Owens carried a three hitter into the seventh inning and once again his Greg Maddux like defensive skills helped him out of a jam. Bradley Ray (Auburn) led off the inning with a single before being erased on a fielders choice by Carson Schilling. Schilling was on first when Drew McCormick sent a shot back at Owens and once again Owens was up to the task. A quick throw to short stop Mike Mooney forced Schilling and kept a Cards runner from being in scoring position. Jacob Fabry followed with the second single of the inning but Owens ended the rally with his glove by making another nice fielding play on a grounder from Chad Cunningham.
New Market (6-10) added single runs in the fifth and sixth innings to push the lead out to 5-0 and just two questions remained for Owens. Could he protect the shut out and how deep into the game would he pitch? We were speculating each inning as to who would come out of the Rebel dugout and in the eighth it was Owens once again. He pitched around a 2-out single by Bennett Davis (5TH Cards hit) to complete the eighth inning and was told to ice it down for the night by the coaching staff.
"My velocity dropped later in the game so I had to start pitching instead of throwing," Owens added."I was throwing a lot of two seemers away and Nick is a very smart back there behind the plate. Coach Smith told me to put it on ice but I talked them into letting me start the ninth inning. The Rebels had the bullpen ready if Owens started to struggle but he needed only 5 more pitches (102 total) to retire the Cards in order to preserve the 5 hit complete game shut out.
I asked Owens when the last time he tossed a complete game and he was quick to answer (between bites of his post game Spaghetti dinner.
"That would of been during my freshman year against LaSalle," Owens noted with a touch of excitement.
Another play that was game changing came in the second inning when Bradley Ray coaxed a one out walk from Owens. FR skipper Bob Brotherton has always looked to play an aggressive style of baseball that includes steals, bunts and hit and runs. Tonight was no different as Ray took off for second base only to be cut down by a laser fired by Stanley. Despite 14 Cards reaching base for the contest- no other steals were attempted against Stanley and Owens.
"I don't like to ever call a game based on whether the other team might be running, you always want to pitch to the batter," Stanley added. "When you get away from that is when you leave something in the middle of the plate and someone hits a home run. Steve threw strikes, a lot of strikes and he did a great job of working inside and out all game."
Just a solid game of pitch and catch by Owens and Stanley. Rebel baseball- playing in a park near you- all summer long! Don't forget to catch Tim in the morning @ http://www.nvdaily.com/ !