BROADWAY - A rainy day led to a quiet night throughout the Valley, but not in Broadway. While every other RCBL postseason game was postponed on Wednesday evening, the Bruins hosted Montezuma in game one of their quarterfinal series.
Broadway right-hander John Judy was as dominant as every as he pitched a complete game, striking out 13 batters on the way to a 5-1 victory. Judy allowed just one run on nine hits and one walk.
The game started as a pitchers’ duel on both sides as Montezuma started John Dudley only allowed one hit through the first three innings. The tide started to turn in the bottom of the fourth, though.
Boo Dean led off the inning with a double and was later drive home on a triple that Matt Meiser rocketed to left field. The throw to third was off target and rolled into the Broadway dugout, allowing Meiser to come home and score as well.
The Bruins would put up two more runs in the bottom of the fifth after Danny Grogg led the inning off with a double and he and Tanner Skidmore each crossed the plate in the frame.
Meanwhile, Judy continued to be dominant on the mound as the game went on. Six of his 13 strikeouts came in the last four innings of the game, including three in the seventh inning.
To cap things off in the bottom of the eighth inning for the Bruins, Meiser walked, stole second, reached third on a wild pitch, and stole home to give the Bruins their fifth run of the game.
Montezuma came close to scoring in the top of the fifth, but Josh Tayman was thrown out trying to cross the plate on a ground ball from Owen Stewart. The Braves eventually put a run on the board in the top of the ninth when Stewart reached after getting hit by a pitch and scored in the inning.
For the Bruins, Meiser finished the night 1-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs. Grogg went 2-for-3 in the game with a run scored.
The win puts the Bruins up 1-0 in the series, needing just one win to advance to the semifinals. The next game is scheduled for tonight at Ruritan Park in Montezuma.
The Braves will look to keep their season alive by securing a win as they return home tonight for a 7:30 p.m. first pitch.
Clover Hill is currently up 1-0 over Grottoes after an 18-5 win on Tuesday night, while Elkton is up 1-0 against New Market after a 10-8 win on Tuesday.
All four series will be back in action tonight, with every game scheduled for 7:30 p.m. All scheduling information can be found here.
All eyes were on Ruritan Field Monday night, as the Bridgewater Reds and the Montezuma Braves played the final game of the regular season. This game would determine the final order of the standings, and therefore lock in the playoff matchups for the 2019 season. After the dust settled, the Braves emerged victorious over the Reds, 13-8.
Now, the playoff picture is clear. The matchups are as follows:
#1 Clover Hill Bucks vs #8 Grottoes Cardinals
Game 1: Tuesday night, at Clover Hill, 7:30 PM Game 2: Wednesday night, at Grottoes, 7:30 PM Game 3 (if necessary): Thursday night, at Clover Hill, 7:30 PM
This matchup was the only one that had been decided before Monday night’s contest. The Clover Hill Bucks completely ran away with the regular season pennant, securing an impressive 24-4 record and beating out the next best team by nine games. The Bucks have made it to the championship series the last two years, but lost both times, so these playoffs certainly have a bit more intensity for the Clover Hill squad. They are ridiculously deep in all facets of their roster, but are headlined by the bat of Josh Eberely (.344 AVG, 22 RBI) and the arm of Nick Corbin (5-0, 1.47 ERA, 35 K).
As for the Cardinals, their solid season has unraveled, resulting in a seven game losing streak to finish the regular season. Now, they will have to try to figure it out against the juggernaut of the Bucks in a three game series. They will look to replicate the success they had in the middle stretch of the season, where they won 7 of 9 games, including a 6-1 win over the Bucks on June 8. No doubt, they will need production from their two MVP-candidate sluggers, Keegan Woolford (.484 AVG, 26 RBI) and David Wood (.422 AVG, 19 RBI).
#2 New Market Shockers vs #7 Elkton Blue Sox
Game 1: Tuesday night, at New Market, 7:30 PM Game 2: Wednesday night, at Elkton, 7:30 PM Game 3 (if necessary): Thursday night, at New Market, 7:30 PM
The Shockers finished the season by winning seven of their last ten games, fueled by a dynamic offense and a reliable stable of starting pitchers. Frankie Ritter (.366 AVG), Peter Mullholland (.415 AVG) and Pearce Bucher (.352 AVG, 27 RBI) form one of the best top-of-the-lineup combinations in the league, as they have a tendency to force the opponent to their bullpen earlier than they anticipated.
New Market will now turn their attention to the intriguing Elkton Blue Sox, who have climbed out of the 8-seed and started to assert themselves as a dark horse candidate for this year’s playoffs. The Blue Sox are headlined by a pair of bombers in JJ Loker (.302 AVG, 3 HR, 24 RBI) and MVP candidate Christian Rodriguez (.341 AVG, 4 HR, 26 RBI). The key for Elkton will be getting solid innings from their starting pitching. This could prove to be one of the more fun series of the first round.
#3 Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks vs #6 Bridgewater Reds
Game 1: Wednesday night, at Stuarts Draft, 7:30 PM Game 2: Thursday night, at Bridgewater, 7:30 PM Game 3 (if necessary): Friday night, at Stuarts Draft, 7:30 PM
The Diamondbacks have put together a very solid season, staying around .500 all summer, but winning key matchups along the way. They are a team with a deep lineup and a reliable bullpen, making them a formidable playoff opponent. Jack Pausic (.326 AVG, 22 RBI), Tanner Levine (.313 AVG) and Tyler Wilcher (.308 AVG) will all be dangerous weapons for Stuarts Draft to deploy.
They will go head to head against the defending champion Bridgewater Reds, who, despite losing a handful of key players from previous seasons, are still very much in the mix.
The Reds’ full capabilities were on display in the middle of the season, where they won 8 of 9 games in commanding fashion. Now, Bridgewater will look to recapture that success behind their star-studded pitching staff, led by the dynamic duo of Derek Shifflett (4 CG, 3.80 ERA, 82 K) and Tucker Garrison (4-2, 4.32 ERA, 55 K). Of course, the other problem for the Dbacks is MVP candidate Corbin Lucas (.425 AVG, 30 RBI) lurking in the middle of the Reds’ lineup.
#4 Broadway Bruins vs #5 Montezuma Braves
Game 1: Wednesday night, at Broadway, 7:30 PM Game 2: Thursday night, at Montezuma, 7:30 PM Game 3 (if necessary): Friday night, at Broadway, 7:30 PM
The Bruins finish the regular season winning 6 of their last 8 games. The Bruins are arguably the most evenly talented team in the league, having solid assets in all aspects of the game. They will now turn to a few key players to take them over the hump, namely John Judy (4-1, 2.31 ERA) on the mound and Matt Meiser (.327 AVG, 25 RBI) at the dish.
As for the Braves, they take a three game win streak into the playoffs, backed by a fearsome offense, anchored by PJ Hanisak (.350 AVG, 28 RBI) and MVP candidate Luke Paczewski (.400 AVG, 16 RBI). The key for Montezuma will be finding reliable innings from their bullpen, which could prove to be a difference maker in this evenly matched series.
After the conclusion of the first round, only four teams will remain, setting up an exciting semi-finals series. Be sure to get out and catch the first round action this week, and stay tuned to the RCBL website for more playoff coverage.
A freak rainstorm passed through Montezuma on Friday night, causing the game to be postponed and rescheduled for Monday night. While the rest of the league finished up the regular season over the weekend, the Braves and Reds still had one more game to play, causing some confusion as to when the playoffs would start and who would be playing who.
With Montezuma’s 13-8 win over Bridgewater on Monday, the confusion is cleared up. The 2019 regular season has come to an end, and we have the playoff match-ups set for the postseason. The first-round match-ups are as follows:
No. 1 Clover Hill vs. No. 8 Grottoes No. 2 New Market vs. No. 7 Elkton No. 3 Stuarts Draft vs. No. 6 Bridgewater No. 4 Broadway vs. No. 5 Montezuma
The Clover Hill-Grottoes series and the New Market-Elkton series will start Tuesday, with the other two series beginning on Wednesday night. All first-round series are best-of-three and will be played on three consecutive days, weather permitting.
The higher seed will host games 1 and 3, with the lower seed hosting game 2. All games are set for a 7:30 p.m. first pitch.
MONTEZUMA - It’s 6 PM at Ruritan Field. I got there early to see the Montezuma Braves hit batting practice. I wanted to watch the whole team hit, but was especially interested in the cleanup man from Bridgewater College – Luke Paczewski.
Paczewski has been on a tear this season in the RCBL. He’s been in the top five for batting average since the season started, and is close to top ten in about every other category – despite having as much as thirty less at-bats then his peers at this point in the season.
Fresh off an All-Star Game appearance, Paczewski was back with his Braves teammates, stationed at third base during batting practice. With two teammates beside him at all times, Paczewski was in good spirits as his team cycled through taking their swings.
“Lambo!! Hey Lambo, hit me one!” Brandon Lambert, or ‘Lambo’, is the Braves’ shortstop, who was taking his BP. He was focusing on his swings, but he also had to deal with a grinning Paczewski calling out distractions to him. A few more pitches were thrown to Lambert, but none were sent to the third base side. “Lambo, what’s wrong with you?”
Paczewski was either lobbing this kind of banter at the batter, or talking with the two guys next to him as he fielded any ground balls cleanly that came his way. That’s what should be expected of someone that Coach Rush called “an amazing teammate and player.”
Once batting practice wrapped, Paczewski and I met up beside the dugout and walked over to the home side bleachers, where we had a conversation about baseball, life goals, and yes, that unique last name of his.
I’ve gotta ask you first – how many people get your last name wrong?
Everybody. Everybody does.
What’s the most common one?
[Laughs] Pajewski…people throw ‘J’s’ in there a little bit. Mike Wazowski [from Monsters Inc.] is a good second.
I was going to say – isn’t there a nickname the guys call you?
Most guys, actually Seth Berry on Elkton, starting calling me “Produce-ki” after the first couple games, but that’s faded away a little bit.
Well, the fans are getting to know you for sure. I’m going to read off some of your stats here - .408 batting average, 8 runs, 12 RBIs, 6 doubles; and that’s in 12 games. Do you have a goal that you want to be at a certain average, or have certain stats?
I never look for average. I never really focus on stats – there’s a lot of parts to the game of baseball that go hidden, basically, and nobody looks at them. They’re the small little jobs of the game that help teams win, like dropping a sacrifice down, or hitting behind runners, or less than two outs hitting a deep fly ball – that kind of thing. But, I never really shoot for stats, I want the team to do well and I want to be a part of it.
I did want to ask you about that – you’ve been batting third and fourth in the lineup. Do you feel there’s a certain responsibility to be doing those little things, like you said?
Yeah, especially when I hit in the four-hole. Usually I’ll have guys in front of me that’ll get on base. [Kyle] Armstrong typically gets on, and it’s just getting those guys in, doing the little things. Then PJ [Hanisak] hits behind me most of the time, and whether I get them in, PJ will definitely get them in, so I know in the middle of the lineup, you got to get your job done.
Do you prefer hitting fourth?
I actually prefer third. I feel like I see more fastballs, I got used to it hitting there at college, and I just feel comfortable there, third or fifth.
Yeah, and there’s also a disconnect between what you do at Bridgewater, which is a little different than what you do here in the summer. You’re over here [playing] third base over the summer. Why does that happen?
[Laughs] Well, I started out at Bridgewater [College] as a third baseman, and I got into some hip problems – I had hip surgery, and my mobility started going down a little bit. I actually just had hip surgery last year, and [Bridgewater] moved me to first base. But then coming here, there was a hole [at the position], and I jumped in it, and I’m happy to be back at third base.
How has the hip been doing with that?
Good! Actually, this is the best I’ve felt in years, which is awesome. I feel really good, and I love this league, which helps too.
Yeah, and at the All-Star Game you were starting at third base. The West team did pretty good in that one! What’s your relationship like with some of those guys on the team?
A lot of them graduated from Bridgewater, so it’s easy to start talking to some of the guys, and the guys in the league are just a good group of guys. It’s a good league, good players, and it’s really easy to talk to some guys. But it’s always good to be talking to guys who graduated from the school, talking about the tradition and how to get Bridgewater College back on that level. But yeah, it was fun, it was good to meet some of the guys, since it was my first year it was definitely cool.
So, anything you’re taking from that All-Star Game and bringing back here to these guys?
Just have fun. That’s probably the biggest thing going in as a young player, everybody is gung-ho about everything. Sometimes you got to just let loose and have fun – I mean, it’s a game, and you’ve got to love playing to do good.
The one thing that I didn’t know about you, and probably a lot of fans don’t know, is that you’re pursuing your EMT certification. Why is that important to you?
Well, it’s a long story, but I’ll make it short. My dad listening is probably going to kill me for it…but back in 2016 or 2015 I was a freshman, and my dad was involved in a head-on collision back home, and was in the hospital for a month. That kind of turned our world upside down. About a year later, there was a car accident near my house, and my mom being an RN and my sister being an RN, we went to it to see what was going on, and when the EMT showed up, one of the EMT’s who worked my dad’s incident was there, and we just kind of broke down and gave him a hug. At that moment, I knew that was something I wanted to do.
And, Laura Clark, former rescue chief at Bridgewater, she’s still there, she kind of brought me under her wing, and kind of honed me down and made me love to be in the medical field and do it for the right reasons.
Yeah man. I think it’s also cool that you’re planning on staying around here after you graduate.
Yeah, I want to work for Rockingham County Fire & Rescue, that’s my big goal, and then sometime in my life pursuing to become a paramedic. But, you know, meeting the guys in the area, volunteering with Bridgewater Rescue Squad – it’s one big family, and it seems like the kind of thing I want to be a part of.
That’s great, man. And it’s great to have the team mentality in both that and baseball, especially when it’s something really cool like that. To bring it back to the RCBL, you guys have got some work to do in the tail end of the season – starting with tonight. What’s your approach going into tonight?
Just keep it simple. I think most guys will tell you, as long as they stay in the middle of the field, and don’t get too out in front of the pitching, typically your approach stays pretty good, and you tend to have good at-bats. Even if you get out, if you’re hitting the ball hard it’s still a good night. I think our pitchers have got to throw, but as a hitter, just keep it simple.
Any predictions for tonight?
I hope we come out on top! I feel confident that we’re gonna get a win here, I think coming off a long break we had, I think it was eight days, we feel recharged, and we want to get after it.
Paczewski’s line that night? 2-5 with a run scored – batting from the number three spot in the lineup.
Be sure to stay tuned to the RCBL website as the regular season comes to an exciting conclusion and the playoffs come into focus.
MONTEZUMA - Heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, the Montezuma Braves were staring at a 6-0 deficit, facing off against a pitcher who they had only gotten one hit off of in six innings. A few fans were starting to trickle towards their vehicles.
And then, with one swing, the Braves were back in the game. Kyle Armstrong ripped a line drive three-run home run just inside the left field foul pole, cutting the lead in half. The floodgates opened then for the Braves, and the massive inning had a second major swing by Tavien Hall, who crushed a three-run double to right-center field to give the Braves a 7-6 lead.
Now, with a one run lead heading to the ninth, the Braves suddenly needed a closer to finish the game off. Coach Rush turned to Jacob King, who had to face the top of the Broadway lineup. After a leadoff single by Bryce Strawderman, King was able to settle in and retire three of the next four batters to shut the door and secure the victory for Montezuma.
“It’s huge,” Armstrong said of the come-from-behind victory. “It’s a big momentum swing for the team. Once you get those runs on the board you start to believe.”
The Braves have had several injuries that have dried up their roster over the past couple of weeks. Armstrong himself just returned from his honeymoon, just in time to play a couple key roles for his team: in the ninth, Armstrong was the catcher for King.
“He’s a guy I’ve actually coached at Riverheads,” Armstrong said of King. “So I know how he likes to pitch, that made it easy for me.”
For the Broadway Bruins, it was a devastating loss. Pitcher Bryce Turner was forced into the game in the second inning due to an injury, but he made the most of his appearance, having six shutout innings before the wheels came off in the eighth. Tanner Skidmore had a two run home run of his own in the top of the eighth, and Kevin Rush had an impressive string of at bats in the middle of the game.
All that, however, went out the window as the Braves roared back and took the game for themselves. The win moves the Braves up to 10-16, still just one game out of the dreaded 8th place in the RCBL standings. The Bruins, meanwhile, fall to 13-14, still good for 4th place.
The Bruins final regular season game is on Saturday, where they host the Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks (13-12). The Braves have a couple games left, the first of which is on Friday, when they are back home against the Bridgewater Reds (11-14).
By Adam Harnish After losing on a walkoff walk to the Braves on Friday night, less than twenty four hours later, the Clover Hill Bucks were back on the field. This time, there was a little extra energy in the Bucks dugout.
“We just got back to playing the way we’ve played all year,” Coach Cofer said of their approach.
The Bucks took the lead in the second inning and never looked back, defeating the Grottoes Cardinals 10-4 in a game that challenged their mental toughness.
The previous game against Montezuma had the Bucks up 8-1 going into the sixth inning, until the Braves scored ten runs in the frame, and later went on the win in the ninth. Clover Hill was faced with a similar situation on Saturday night, when they had a 7-0 lead going into the sixth inning. They were able to hold on and shut the door this time, backed by a strong defense and a great effort from their starting pitcher, Eric Yankey.
Yankey threw seven innings, allowing only two runs on five hits and nine strikeouts.
“He’s just a really tough competitor,” Cofer said of Yankey. “He throws a lot of strikes in big spots, and he throws his curveball for a strike a lot. That gives him a lot of benefits.”
Yankey had the curve working tonight, which fueled his success over seven innings. Then, Tanner Moyers came on to get the last six outs, withstanding some choppy waters in both innings.
On the offensive side, it was another well-rounded performance for the Clover Hill lineup, as five hitters had multi-hit games. The Cardinals lineup also had a solid day at the plate, but never had a breakthrough inning to match the Bucks.
The win vaults the Bucks to a pristine 18-3, whereas the Cardinals fall to 9-13, just a half game above seventh place. The Bucks are back home Sunday night versus the Braves (8-13) to seek a little payback, and the Cardinals take the field on Monday night, hosting the New Market Shockers (11-11).
By Adam Harnish MONTEZUMA - RCBL fans need to get familiar with this name: Jose Rocha.
All he did Wednesday night was blast two home runs, tally three RBIs and stretch his on-base streak to ten straight games to lead Elkton to a 9-4 victory over the Montezuma Braves.
So, we had to know - which home run did he like better?
“The first one,” Rocha said with a laugh after the game. “That one was to center field...so yeah, the first one.”
The game started off back-and-forth, as the Blue Sox opened with two runs in the top of the first, courtesy of the aforementioned Rocha. But, the Braves responded with three runs in the bottom of the frame, highlighted by a 2 RBI single from Brandon Lambert.
So, in response, the Blue Sox tied it up in the next frame, 3-3. After a scoreless inning from the Braves, a JJ Loker solo shot gave Elkton the lead, which they never gave up for the rest of the game.
Holding down the fort for the Blue Sox on the mound was Matt Plotner, who threw eight innings, allowing only four runs with four strikeouts.
“It was amazing,” Rocha said of Plotner’s performance. “Like I said, we have his back, so he just filled up the strike zone today, and it was amazing for him to pitch today.”
Plotner, for his part, was quick to put the spotlight on his teammates after the game. “I’m just grateful I have such a great team to play for, because these guys are my family.”
Plotner was able to avoid major damage in the seventh and eighth inning, when the Braves had multiple runners on with less than two outs. Then, Jacob Rich came in as the closer to shut the door in a crucial victory for the Blue Sox, who now move to a 6-12 record.
For the Braves, they had multiple innings where they threatened to even up the game, but were unable to convert with runners in scoring position. It was a disappointing result for the team, who now fall to 7-13 on the year.
OTHER STANDOUT PERFORMANCES: Lee Carneal, Josh Good and Mack Rexrode all had multi-hit games for the Blue Sox...Two Braves hitters, Luke Paczewski and Alex Markapoulos, both got hits on Wednesday night, keeping their averages above .400 for the year...Josh Tayman threw three innings of relief for Montezuma, allowing only one run on two hits.
Drew Easter and John Judy have been named the Journeys Crossing RCBL Players of the Week for the week of July 1-7.
Easter dominated at the plate this week, going 8-for-12 over the course of three games for the Clover Hill Bucks. He started the week off with a 4-for-5 night at Grottoes on July 2. Easter scored two runs in the contest as the Bucks won 14-3.
Later in the week, the veteran outfielder went 2-for-3 in a 9-2 win over Elkton. He scored one run and drove in two more in the game. He capped off the week with a 2-for-4 night on Sunday as the Bucks picked up a 6-3 win over Stuarts Draft.
Easter and the Bucks are now 17-2 on the season and have a 6.5 game lead over the rest of the league. They’ll be back in action this Friday when they travel to Montezuma for a matchup with the Braves.
Judy threw a rain-shortened no-hitter on Sunday night as the Broadway Bruins picked up a 7-0 win over Elkton. Judy threw six innings on the mound, allowing no runs and striking out eight batters in the game. He is now 3-1 on the season with 43 strikeouts and a 3.13 ERA. The Bruins will be back on the diamond tonight when they play on the road at Bridgewater.
By Adam Harnish The Bucks won again on Tuesday night, blowing out the Grottoes Cardinals 14-3 in eight innings. It was an all-around masterful performance from the team atop the RCBL standings, who have been on the top of their game to start the second half of the season.
“I think things are starting to click for us,” Clover Hill’s Drew Easter said after the game, who went 4-5 at the plate with three runs. “We’re waiting [at the plate], getting some good pitches to hit, and then putting good swings on the ball.”
The Bucks didn’t wait long to get started on Tuesday night. In the first inning, Clover Hill got the bases loaded, and were able to drive all three runners home to take a 3-0 lead. They tacked on another run in the fourth, but their major damage came in the sixth inning, when they erupted for five more runs to push the game to 9-0.
The old baseball cliché is that a good team can find lots of different ways to win a ballgame, and Tuesday was no different for the Bucks. For example: two of the biggest hits of that sixth inning? Back to back bunt singles by Drew Easter and Blake Sipe, who both came around to score in a wild showcase of the relentless Clover Hill offense.
“Every night we come out, we want to be as intense as possible on the baseball field,” Easter said. “We continue to apply pressure, and in this league, when you apply pressure...a lot of things end up going your way.”
Of course, the offense was only half the story for the Bucks, as the pitching staff was able to hold the Cardinals lineup scoreless for most of the night. Starter Jordan Showalter set the tone for Clover Hill, going four innings, allowing zero runs on four strikeouts.
“I just let the defense work,” Showalter said of his approach. “I know the guys behind me are going to make all the plays they need to make, it’s just a matter of going out there, hitting spots, keeping the ball down in the zone and getting some ground balls.”
As for the Cardinals, they were able to get baserunners on early in the game, but they were unable to convert and bring those runners home - nine Cardinals were stranded on the basepaths in the first six innings. It was a disappointing result for a Grottoes team that is making a push for the top of the standings.
The loss puts Grottoes at 8-10 on the year, sitting in fifth place. As for the Bucks, they move to 15-2 on the year, stretching their lead atop the RCBL standings to five games. Both teams return to action on Friday night.
Ross French and Jacob Matheney have been named the Journeys Crossing Players of the Week for the week of June 24-30.
French had a strong week at the plate for the Clover Hill Bucks, registering a hit in four games this week. He started the week off with a 4-for-5 performance against New Market on Tuesday, driving in two runs and scoring twice himself.
On June 29 he went 2-for-4 against Broadway as Clover Hill won 8-3 on the road. French drove in one run and scored two in the Bucks’ victory. He capped off the week with a 1-for-3 night against Broadway on Sunday, hitting a double and driving in a run.
The Emory and Henry grad is now batting .333 on the year with 6 RBIs for the first-place Bucks. Clover Hill will be back in action tonight when they travel to Grottoes to face the Cardinals. That game will be broadcast on ESPN 106.9 and 1360 WHBG.
Matheney pitched in two games for the Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks this week, earning a win in both appearances. His week started with a seven-inning outing against Montezuma on Tuesday. Matheney allowed just one unearned run on three hits while striking out six batters.
He followed that performance up with a six-inning appearance against Grottoes on Sunday, allowing three runs on six hits and striking out seven batters. Matheney is 3-1 on the season for the Dbacks with 27 strikeouts and a 3.55 ERA. The Diamondbacks will be back in action tonight when they host Bridgewater at the Diamond Club for a 7:30 p.m. first pitch.