BRIDGEWATER- Before Friday night’s game two of the RCBL championship series, Bridgewater Reds IF/P Tyler Bocock was officially awarded the 2018 MVP Award. Nearly three hours later, he showed a massive crowd at Ray Heatwole Field why the award was so deserving.
The first six and a half innings of game two were dominated by the Clover Hill Bucks. Ross French gave the Bucks an early 1-0 lead, scoring on a Blake Sipe pop-up that was dropped by second baseman Brian Bocock in the first inning.
Back-to-back doubles by Cody Warner and Blake Sipe would plate two more runs, giving Clover Hill a 3-0 lead with starting pitcher Nick Corbin cruising on the mound. Corbin worked through six scoreless innings, producing weak contact and timely ground balls throughout the evening (until things unraveled in the seventh inning).
After a solo home run by Danny Grogg put the Bucks up 4-0, it appeared as if Clover Hill was well on their way to pulling even with Bridgewater at a game apiece in this best-of-seven series.
Tyler Bocock had other plans. A Tyler Mahone single, Grey Sherfey single, and Kevin Bocock walk loaded the bases with two outs and the just-named MVP coming up to the plate.
Bocock wasted no time, sending the first pitch he saw deep over the left-centerfield fence for a grand slam. A longing stare, a quick bat flip, and a few resounding “Let’s go!” from Bocock not only tied the game but immediately gave his Reds all the momentum they would need to complete the comeback.
Jared Talley took the hill for the final two frames, throwing two scoreless innings while refusing to allow a hit or a free pass, earning the victory after a 10th inning walk-off from his offense.
Bocock would score the game-winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning on a Corbin Lucas walk-off single that dropped in front of Clover Hill center fielder Blake Sipe.
Both teams will take Saturday off before returning to the diamond on Sunday evening at Buck Bowman Park for game three. First pitch is scheduled for 7:30 (pending sun, of course).
CLOVER HILL - CLOVER HILL- Game one of the Rockingham County Baseball League championship series did not disappoint. In the showdown of all showdowns, the Bridgewater Reds sent Derek Shifflett to mound to match up against the regular season champion Clover Hill Bucks and their ace, Corey Armentrout.
The stands were full, excitement and tension ran high throughout the Clover Dome, and the action on the field was exactly what everyone expected it to be.
In a truly unbelievable performance, Bridgewater starting pitcher Derek Shifflett threw 147 pitches in a complete game, winning effort to clinch game one of the RCBL championships.
Shifflett gave up three earned runs on 11 hits, striking out nine Bucks hitters, all while in obvious pain. Working through the second inning, Shifflett doubled over in pain, holding his oblique area as he walked around the back of the mound. As the crowd fell silent, except for a few gasps from Bridgewater faithful, Shifflett tossed a few warmup pitches and continued on his way.
Even though the velocity seemed to dip, Shifflett relied on his pitch selection and defense behind him to finish off one of the more memorable pitching performances in league history.
Corbin Lucas, Tyler Bocock, and Tyler Mahone each drove in runs through the first three frames, giving Bridgewater a quick 3-0 lead heading into the bottom of the third.
With Drew Easter and Addison Griffin on base in the third, Blake Sipe tied the game up with one swing of the bat, sending a three-run home run over the left field fence. Despite the humid conditions and moist air, the ball slowly carried its way out of Buck Bowman Park, reenergizing the home crowd.
The next four frames went scoreless as both teams traded hits and highlight reel defensive plays, including a diving, Gold Glove worthy grab by Sipe in centerfield to save two runs from scoring.
Coach Cofer sent his ace back out to the mound to start the eighth inning, quickly pulling Armentrout after he surrendered a leadoff walk to Grey Sherfey. Armentrout was replaced by the RCBL’s top relief pitcher, Eric Yankey to finish out the final two frames.
A throwing error by Clover Hill and an RBI-double from Brian Bocock would give Bridgewater a 5-3 lead, enough of a cushion to allow Shifflett to finish off his epic performance.
Every single starter on each team reached base at least once as both teams combined for 22 hits in a game that undoubtedly has set the tone for an unforgettable best-of-seven series to decide the 2018 RCBL champion.
Game two will take place tonight at Ray Heatwole Field with first pitch scheduled for 7:30 pm.
NEW MARKET - The New Market Shockers defeated Bridgewater 10-2 last night to stay alive in the third game of their semifinal series.
“Their backs were against the wall when they came into the game, it was a do or die night. Benner did an excellent job on the mound, threw a whole game, complete game, was hitting every corner of the strike zone they had,” New Market head coach Rush said about his teams performance last night. “We knew coming in was going to take good pitching. Bridgewater is a good hitting team and we knew were going to have to keep runs limited and keep our errors down, and we did that.”
The Reds went up early in the game as Kevin Bocock came around to score on a fielder's choice in the first inning.
The Shockers answered back with two runs during the bottom of the third, starting with a single from Joseph Rutherford that scored Zach Stiles.
Errors from Bridgewater allowed the Shockers to capitalize multiple times last night. After a wild pitch, Rutherford stole home to make the score 2-1 going into the fourth.
The Reds would score another run in the top of the sixth, but New Market answered back with runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to end up on top.
Pitcher Colin Benner shut out Bridgewater the last three innings of the game. He pitched all nine innings, giving up just two runs and striking out nine batters.
“We're going to play basic baseball, cut down on errors. We're going to put bat on the ball, force them to make plays, cut down on strikeouts and throw some strikes,” Rush said about his teams mindset going into the next game.
The Shockers and the Reds will meet again at Bridgewater’s home field tonight for the fourth game in the series. First pitch is schedule for 7:30pm.
CLOVER HILL - The Clover Hill Bucks lost the 2017 finals in five games, but they’re using that as motivation. As they celebrated getting back to the championship series on Saturday night, cheers of “Unfinished business!” rang out among the team.
A 2-1 victory in a pitcher’s duel at Buck Bowman Park sent the Bucks back to the championship series for the second-straight year.
“It’s good. It’s no easy task to do that in this league,” head coach Chris Cofer said about the Bucks earning back-to-back appearances. “There’s a lot of really good talent and some solid organizations and teams in the league, so to get there two years in a row is humbling. I wouldn’t say it’s not expected, but it’s a hard journey.”
After finishing the regular season with a record of 23-5, the Bucks have swept both of their opponents in the playoffs. They defeated Montezuma in two games in the quarterfinals before knocking Grottoes out in three games.
The Bucks’ strong pitching staff, which is stacked with three All-RCBL pitchers, has only gotten better in the postseason.
“Our focus is really good,” Cofer said. “Our pitchers are really hitting their spots.”
Perhaps the biggest contributor to the Bucks’ win on Saturday, starter Kevin Chandler pitched eight innings, giving up just one run and striking out seven batters to send his team back to the championship.
“Pretty much everything,” Chandler said when asked what was working for him during the game. “Pitching game three, Cody [Warner] has caught two of them. I just relied on him. Whatever he called, I threw. Everything was working, so it made it pretty quick.”
Chandler didn’t allow a baserunner through the first three innings and had five total innings in which he retired the Cardinals in order. He didn’t allow a walk on the night and rarely got behind in the count.
“That’s part of my M.O., is just get ahead and then you’re in control of the count,” Chandler said. “Then I can do a lot of different things. If I’m behind 2-0, you’re down, then you’ve got to put it on the plate.”
Chandler isn’t the only Clover Hill pitcher to have a successful outing in the semifinals. Corey Armentrout struck out 10 batters in a 3-2 win in game one while Nick Corbin allowed just one hit through six innings in game two.
“With those two guys, it’s awesome to have, because you know every night with one of them out there you’ve got a chance to win,” Chandler said. “Then with [Eric] Yankey in the back half, that’s tough. We really put an emphasis on playing good defense.” Eric Yankey earned saves in games one and three, proving just as effective as he was during the regular season.
While pitching has been the focal point of the Bucks, they have been able to get the job done offensively as well.
“We had some really hard-nosed at bats in some key spots, like the Easter RBI there in the seventh or eighth, so I think our focus has gotten locked in a little better after the long rainout,” Cofer said.
The RBI he mentioned was a two-out double by Drew Easter that scored Kevin Kirk to give the Bucks the lead in the seventh inning. The game had been close all night and Grottoes tied it in the top of the seventh, but as Cofer said, the Bucks have gotten clutch at bats at the right time.
After losing in the first round of the playoffs in 2016, the Bucks are back to usual form. Saturday’s victory gives Clover Hill the chance to compete for their 18th league championship, something they haven’t accomplished since 2015.
Chandler believes a change in mentality is what helped the Bucks get back to title contention this season.
“Last year we made a huge emphasis on winning every game. Compete hard and win,” Chandler said. “We went on a streak of 14 games last year and I think we just got tired and worn out. This year we knew we were a good ball club, let’s just pitch and play defense, let’s just focus on that. Our hitting will come around. That’s what we’ve done and I feel like we’re a little more in better shape, we’re feeling good.”
The Bucks will face the winner of the New Market/Bridgewater series in the finals. Bridgewater is currently up 2-0 in the series with game three being played tonight at New Market.
Whoever their opponent is, don’t expect the Bucks to make significant changes to their game plan.
“We’re prepared to do what we do” Cofer said. “Trying to change what we do is not something that’s going to benefit us. We’re going to kind of stick with what we do with strategic hits in the right places and playing good strong defense.”
BRIDGEWATER - Following up their 12-run performance on Thursday night, the Bridgewater Reds defeated New Market 11-0 in game two on Friday. The Reds’ 12 hits combined with eight errors by New Market led to a shut-out win to take a two-game lead in the series.
“Momentum’s going our way right now,” Reds’ catcher Josh Wright said. “We’ve still got to stay focused one game at a time. We don’t get ahead of ourselves because we need to focus on each and every pitch. We’re looking forward to game three.”
Much like Thursday's game, a few key innings proved to be the difference for the Reds.
Bridgewater’s offense started off slow, scoring one run each in the first and third innings. The offense exploded in the fifth for five runs on five hits and four errors. Tyler Bocock, Wright, Brian Bocock, Corbin Lucas and Andrew Armstrong all came around to score in the inning.
The Reds scored three more runs in the sixth to make it 10-0. The final run of the game came on a solo shot to straightaway centerfield by Tyler Bocock in the eighth inning.
Four Reds had multi-hit games, including Wright, who finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored on the night.
“The guy coming in first was a sidearmer, so we just tried to stay with a good approach and go with inside pitches best we could and it seemed to work tonight,” Wright said about his mentality at the plate.
Bridgewater starter Tucker Garrison got the win on the mound, pitching six innings while striking out eight batters. Garrison gave up just three hits and one walk on the night.
“He got ahead early and that’s the key to success in this league is making sure you can get ahead in the count,” Wright said about his pitcher’s performance. “He got some ground balls and it worked out great for us.”
The Reds now have a 2-0 lead in the series heading into game three on Sunday night. Sunday’s contest will be a home game for the Shockers back at Rebel Park.
NEW MARKET - After multiple rain delays and cancellations, the first game of the Bridgewater versus New Market series was completed last night. The Reds took home a 12-5 win to take a 1-0 lead in the semifinals.
New Market had a strong start by capitalizing on the mistakes that the Reds made in the first two innings. The Shockers got two runs on the board in the bottom of the first inning. They added three more in the second to take a 5-0 lead.
“I think we struggled early, but took a deep breath, settled in and had a good third inning and just kind of kept it going from there,” Tyler Bocock said about the Reds performance on Thursday.
The Reds answered back to those five runs by bringing home 10 runs in the top of the third. Starting with a single to left field from Corbin Lucas that brought home Tyler Bocock, the Reds scored 10 runs on 10 hits to break the game open.
The Reds kept the Shockers from advancing home the rest of the night while the Bridgewater offense kept the runs coming. Bridgewater scored one more in the fourth inning and put another run across in the ninth to take the win in game one.
“There are things we can take away from this game, just like every game we can definitely do better. We walked some guys tonight, it would be nice to go after some guys, give our defense a chance,” Bocock said. “We had a couple innings that were big innings but it’s nice sometimes to chip away, keep scoring throughout the game.”
New Market and Bridgewater will play again in the second game of the series tonight at Ray Heatwole Field.
GROTTOES - GROTTOES- The Clover Hill Bucks are now just one win away from punching their ticket to a second-straight trip to the RCBL championship series, after defeating the Grottoes Cardinals 9-5.
Nick Corbin took the mound for the Bucks, giving up just one hit across six innings of work on the road, at Shifflett Field. The lone hit allowed came in the first inning, a ground-rule double off the bat of Keegan Woolford.
Woolford and Ray Tricarico would come around to score on an error, later in the inning, however, that would be the only runs allowed by Corbin and his defense, until the seventh inning.
Despite falling behind early, the offense of Clover Hill exploded for 12 hits, including six combined base-hits from Tanner Moyers and Kevin Kirk. Each added a walk on the night, reaching base a combined nine times on the evening.
Every single Bucks’ starter reached base at least once, adding seven walks to their 12 hits.
The Cardinals attempted a comeback in the bottom of the seventh, scoring three runs off relief pitcher Tyler Conley, including an RBI-single by Woolford to bring the Cardinals to within four. Grottoes proved unable to close the gap anymore over the final two frames.
The bullpen duo of Jordan Showalter and Waring Garber combined for 2.2 innings of scoreless relief to close out the game.
Both teams will take tonight off before resuming the series on Saturday night at Buck Bowman Park. If Clover Hill wins, they clinch the five-game series. Should Grottoes battle back for a victory, the series returns to Shifflett Field on Sunday evening, for game four.
CLOVER HILL - The Clover Hill Bucks and Grottoes Cardinals hadn’t played since the end of the July, when both teams completed first round sweeps in the RCBL playoffs. Last night at Buck Bowman Park, the two teams finally began their semifinal matchup, resulting in a 3-2 Clover Hill win.
Corey Armentrout took the mound in game one for the Bucks, striking out 10 Cardinals in seven innings of work. He allowed no earned runs on seven hits and did not issue a single free pass.
Armentrout looked confident the entire outing, saying after the game, “I believe in my stuff. I’m a fastball pitcher and I’m able to spot up and command.” Evident by his zero walks and starting all but three at-bats with a first pitch strike, through his first six innings of work.
Coach Cofer handed the ball to All-RCBL closer Eric Yankey, who slammed the door shut on Clover Hill’s game one victory, giving up just one hit and one walk while striking out four over his two innings of relief.
Grottoes starting pitcher Josh Pittman kept the bases clean before hitting Danny Grogg to lead off the bottom of the third inning. Grogg would later score on an RBI-single by leadoff hitter Ross French for the first run of the evening.
Clover Hill would add another run in the next frame on an RBI-single by Grogg, scoring Blake Sipe to put the Bucks up 2-0.
Grottoes came back to tie the game in the top of the fifth, scoring two runs on a Clover Hill error with bases loaded and two outs. However, another Ross French RBI in the sixth proved to be all Clover Hill would need to secure the victory.
The Cardinals refused to go down quietly, getting two men on base via hit-by-pitch and a walk in the ninth. The game came down to the league’s best reliever in Yankey vs. one of the league’s top power hitters in Keegan Woolford. Playoff baseball at its finest.
Woolford quickly fell behind 0-2, eventually falling victim to the strikeout to wrap up the game.
“I think we were ready to get after it, after sitting back with all this rain. It’s always a pretty big deal to get the first game under your belt and gain confidence as a team,” said Armentrout after the game.
The RCBL end-of-season awards have been finalized for the 2018 season. Coaches around the league voted for the MVP, Pitcher of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Coach of the Year based on performance during the summer.
Putting together a phenomenal two-way season, Bridgewater shortstop/pitcher Tyler Bocock has been named the 2018 MVP. Bocock led or was near the top in almost every offensive category this season, batting .423 with six home runs. His 36 RBIs were the most in the league.
In addition, he earned four wins on the mound while finishing the season with a 2.00 ERA, fourth in the league. Bocock’s performance helped lead the Reds to a 21-7 regular season and a second-place finish in the West Division.
In his first year in the league, Elkton’s Kris Lalk has been named Pitcher of the Year. The Colorado native led the RCBL in strikeouts with 87, tying the Pointstreak-Era record set by Nolan Shaffer in 2013.
Lalk’s highlight of the season came when he struck out 16 New Market batters on the way to earning a 6-1 victory on July 8. He pitched six games this season in which he struck out 10 or more batters. Lalk finished the season with an ERA of 2.39, good for seventh in the league.
Lalk wasn’t the only first-year player to have a good season. Dan Fry of the Broadway Bruins has been named Rookie of the Year for 2018. Fry batted .316 for Broadway this year while hitting four home runs and driving in 26 runs.
A product of Allegany College of Maryland, Fry stole eight bases this season, third in the league. One of Fry’s many highlights was a 3-for-5 performance in Broadway’s 15-13 comeback win over Bridgewater on July 2. Fry hit the game-winning double for the Bruins before making a spectacular catch in centerfield to end the game.
Earning his second-straight honor, Clover Hill’s Chris Cofer has been named Coach of the Year. Cofer guided the Bucks back to the pennant and a 23-5 overall record. Over the past two years, Cofer has helped the Bucks improve from their 2016 season.
This year, the Bucks had one of the deepest pitching staffs in the RCBL. Clover Hill led the league with a 3.46 ERA and was second behind Broadway with 250 strikeouts on the season. Nick Corbin, Corey Armentrout and Eric Yankey all finished the season with four wins for the Bucks.
NEW MARKET - After their quarterfinal series saw five rain delays and one game moved at the request of their opponent, the New Market Shockers finally moved on to the next round with an 8-2 win over Elkton on Monday night.
The two teams finished up the suspended game two, which had been rained out in the bottom of the first inning on Sunday night. The Shockers put together eight runs on 11 hits to put an end to the series that started a week ago.
“Well you know since we started last Tuesday, I’m just glad to complete a game on time,” New Market head coach Chris Rush said. “It’s good, we’re ready to move on to the second round.”
Monday’s game started with two outs in the bottom of the first inning and a man on first base for the Shockers. Nick Goode came around to score on an RBI single by Pat Wingfield for the first run of the game.
Elkton answered in the top of the third when Trent Miller scored on an error to tie the game up at one run apiece.
The teams took turns scoring in the sixth and seventh innings to keep the score tied at 2-2, but New Market broke the game open in the bottom of the seventh. Joseph Rutherford, Nate Jaye, Nick Goode and Pat Wingfield all came across the plate to give New Market a 6-2 lead late in the game.
Two more runs off an RBI single from Goode in the eighth would put the game away for the Shockers. Reliever Brett Ritter faced just four batters in the ninth to close out the game and move on to the next round of the playoffs.
Elkton’s Kris Lalk pitched seven innings and struck out 12 batters, but got the loss as the Shockers put up six runs on him. Only two of the runs that Lalk gave up were earned.
“Long series with Elkton, but pretty good series, this game especially,” Rush said. “Lalk did a heck of a job out there. Benner did a pretty good job for us. We were able to capitalize on Lalk a little bit towards the end. He had a lot of pitches and I think we started being a little more patient and looking for our pitches to hit.”
For New Market, Colin Benner pitched eight innings and gave up just two runs on four hits. Benner struck out 12 batters in the game as well.
First baseman Nolan Potts finished the game 3-for-4 from the plate with one RBI. Goode and Wingfield each had multi-hit games as well.
Despite the Shockers’ record in the regular season, Coach Rush knew his team was capable of playing well in the playoffs and he hopes to keep the momentum going as they face Bridgewater in the semifinals. “We’ve got a good group of guys. This year we were in games when we should have won and we gave some of those away,” Rush said. “I’ve said before and I say again our record doesn’t really reflect who we are and I’m hoping in the postseason we can show that. I think we’re starting to show that and we just want to keep moving on with it.”