I would like to start out by noting that one of the scores missing from last night turned out to
be a 1-0 Woodstock victory over Harrisonburg. That gives Donn Foltz and Stu Richardson two wins in their last three games to pull the River Bandits to within 1 game of the logjam for the eighth and final playoff spot.
The other score missing from last night was Staunton(8-7) 7 over Haymarket(5-10) 2. There were a pair of shut outs tossed last night so it will be interesting for me to check in later at John's site to see the pitcher of the day candidates.
Now to the action last night up(the park is located 2.1 miles north of the house) at Bulldog Field. The summer thunder storm that rolled thru the area about 2 hours before game time made the 7:30 start questionable but the Wranglers were able to get the field ready in time and the first pitch came @ 7:32 PM. The storm also caused a drop in the temperature at the park that was drastic enough that I was prompted to announce the Wranglers had a special on sweat shirts.
There was a nice crowd despite the storm and in an attempt to make the Rebel fans feel at home the attendance was announced as 18,362. Plenty of excited baseball fans on both sides of the bleachers for the start of the action. The starting pitchers were Travis Smink (only VBL guy with 3 wins) and Jim Birmingham (Coastal Carolina). A great match up for us here @ ATV-60 because I have had the pleasure of spending part of an evening with Jim's parents (They were there again last night, down from New Jersey) and Smink (VMI) is this sites resident class clown.
Luray scratched out single runs in the first and second inning but Birmingham escaped further damage when he picked up a much needed double play ball after the Wranglers had the bases loaded and no outs. New Market answered with a run in the third and Luray scored two more in the bottom of the fourth to make it a 4-1 contest.
Both pitchers were working around the hits (U of FLA's Riley Cooper went 3 for 3 to start the game) and staying out of trouble until things became a little strange. Smink was up with his pitch count and came out prior to the seventh inning. The clock was reading 9:07 PM when the teams went into the top of seventh inning. We were thinking about an early ending to the night when things became a little spooky.
Yes- even spooky by New Market vs. Luray standards. I need to start out by saying that the top of the 7TH inning lasted 38 minutes. At no point in my baseball journeys do I recall a 1/2 inning that appeared to be endless. The top of the seventh included a little bit of everything and it all started when Ryan Miller(Rider) relieved Smink to start the inning and it ended when Alex Wimmers (Ohio State) struck out Andrew Hannon to retire the side.
In between, the Rebels plated 4 runs on 2 hits and 2 errors and 2 runners were left on base. The rally started when Cooper collected his third straight hit and it picked up steam from there.Cooper stole second and moved to third on a throwing error on the play. One out later Miller was able to get Kevin Dietrich to ground out to second base, giving the Rebels a 2ND run for the game but giving the Wranglers a 2ND out for the inning.
Mike Mooney (U of FLA) coaxed a walk off Miller and that brought Mike Bocock out of the dugout looking to make a pitching change. Eric Hinkle (Long Island U.) took the ball from his skipper and play resumed. Nick Stanley (NCSU) prolonged the inning by reaching on an eror to give the Rebels runners on the corners. Zack Maxfield (Fla Gulf Coast) came to the plate and that is when things got interesting. Hinkle worked the count on Maxfield to 2-2 and pitch #5 was really close to the plate. If you were on the New Market side I am sure it didn't appear all that close and if you were on the Luray side I'm sure it was obviously strike three. Yes- I am riding the fence on the call. Maxfield turned on the next pitch and his shot hit the top of the wall down the right field line and bounced over for a three run home run.
New Market was now leading 5-4 and the inning was still going on.The next batter, Murray Watts walked and it was time for Bocock to head to the mound to try and settle down Hinkle. When the time came for the talk to break up and the home plate ump said something to the skipper-well lets just say the following conversation was animated. I don't want to dwell on the outburst and be like the fan that only watches Nascar to see a wreck. The game was a great game without the ejection so I will leave that part at this-Ump says "How is it going Mike?" and Mike says "The last call on Maxfield, I beg to differ."
Back to the action- Jeff Toth was next to the dish and he also walked to give the Rebels two runners on base once again. I glanced at the clock on my cell phone and started to wonder if the
inning would ever end. Another pitching change took place and Wimmers finally ended the HALF inning at the 38 minute mark!
The next 7 outs were recorded quickly and quietly but with one down in the bottom of the eighth inning Jeff Jefferson (Liberty U.) homered to tie the game at 5-5. Mr.Jefferson had made the trip up from Lynchburg to see his son play again and he picked a great game to watch. Earlier in the game Jefferson had made a great sliding catch in right field and would later figure into the end of the game.
The Rebel faithful were also able to let me know that the Mother of Robert Seymour (Penn) had made the trip to see her son pitch and I was able to welcome her to Bulldog Field. I will do my best to announce any and all parents that are in town to see a game in Luray because that is one of the things the league is all about!
Back to the action- Dietrich picked up the only base hit from the bottom of the eighth inning until the bottom of the 11TH as the relief pitchers really buckled down. Wimmers went 4.1 innings and surrendered just the Dietrich single. The Rebels bullpen went 4.2 innings and gave up just 2 runs/ 1 earned.
Jefferson was back at it leading off the bottom of the 11TH inning with a single to left field and then slugger Jordan Yost bunted Jefferson over to second base. Austin Markel sent a shattered bat ground ball to the right side of the infield that scooted out to right field and Jefferson slid home with the winning run for Luray.
Bruce Alger and Diane Buckley met out at home plate to exchange the beautiful trophy that is attached to the series and then it was time to close the book on Chapter 2 of the Greatest Series in the Valley!