By Adam Harnish Clinging to a one run lead in the eighth, with the bases loaded and the tying run on third base, Braves pitcher Alex Markopoulos knew he was in a tough spot. But, he still had a plan. “I was just looking to pound the zone,” Markopoulos recalled. “In my head, just pound the zone, and make them beat me with the bat.”
Sure enough, Markopoulos induced an inning ending groundout to escape the jam. The Montezuma Braves (4-3) went on to win a gritty, intense matchup 5-4 against the Bridgewater Reds (2-5), anchored by a crucial 3.2 innings of relief from their young right hander.
“[Markopoulos] pitches with confidence,” Montezuma coach Chris Rush said after the game. “He’s one of those guys that when he takes the mound, if the game is close, he’s going to keep you right there where you need to be.”
Bridgewater started off the game with a two run double courtesy of Kyle Weston, but the Braves quickly responded with three runs of their own in the bottom of the frame. The Braves tacked on two more runs in the middle innings, and their relief pitchers, Troy Fink and Keegan Oliver, held down the fort until the middle of the sixth inning. That’s when Coach Rush went to his closer.
“The last game [Markopoulos] pitched, we were really impressed with what we saw. So, we knew going into this game that he was going to be our closer guy tonight,” Rush explained.
Things got dicey for the Braves in the top of the eighth, when some quality Reds at-bats and a few close calls resulted in a run getting walked in, making the score 5-4. With their back against the wall, bases loaded and two outs, the Braves stuck with Markopoulos on the mound, and he was able to get out of the jam. He went on to pitch a one-two-three ninth inning to put the game in the books.
OTHER STANDOUT PERFORMANCES: Reds CF Grey Sherfey went 2 for 2 with three walks, two runs and one RBI, improving his batting average to .444 on the year...Reds starting pitcher Derek Shifflett threw all eight innings for Bridgewater, only allowing three earned runs on seven hits and eight strikeouts....oh, and by the way, Markopoulos had himself a day at the plate as well: a pair of hits, with an RBI and a run scored.
The Braves travel to Grottoes to take on the Cardinals (1-6) on Friday night. The Reds get a bit of a breather before their next matchup on Sunday at home against the Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks (2-3).
Bridgewater starting pitcher Tucker Garrison and Grottoes catcher Dylan Nicely have been named the RCBL Players of the Week for the week of May 27-June 2.
Garrison is the Journeys Crossing RCBL Pitcher of the Week following a 3-2 win over Grottoes on June 2. The Reds’ hurler tossed a complete game at Shifflett Field, leading his team to their second win of the season. Garrison struck out 14 batters on the night, allowing just two runs to come across the plate.
The win was Garrison’s first outing of the season for Bridgewater, who improved to 2-3 with the victory at Grottoes. Garrison and the Reds will be back on the field Tuesday night at Montezuma.
Facing Garrison at the plate on Sunday night was Cardinals’ catcher Dylan Nicely, who has been named the Timberview Crossing RCBL Player of the Week. Nicely batted .571 in two games this week, hitting one home run and driving in five runs.
Nicely and the Cardinals played on back-to-back nights this week, taking on Broadway on Saturday before facing Bridgewater on Sunday. Nicely went 2-for-3 with a home run and four RBIs in Saturday’s loss to the Bruins.
On Sunday, Nicely went 2-for-4 with a double and one RBI as the Cardinals fell to the Reds at home. Nicely and the Cardinals will be back in action tonight as they host Broadway in a makeup game at Shifflett Field.
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.
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.
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.
BRIDGEWATER - With a trip to the RCBL semifinals on the line, the Bridgewater Reds lineup produced another big outing on the way to an 11-6 victory over Stuarts Draft. Three key innings powered the Reds to a game three victory on their home field in Bridgewater.
Neither starting pitcher made it out of the first inning as Bridgewater’s Alex Stover gave up three runs on two hits and three walks and the Dbacks jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the top of the first.
The Reds were ready to answer back, though, as they got to Stuarts Draft’s Stephen Baker in the bottom of the first. Baker exited after two-thirds of an inning, giving up five runs on four hits and one walk.
Corbin Lucas hit an RBI single to score Kevin Bocock for the Reds’ first run of the game. It was Lucas’ first of three hits on the night, including a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the third inning.
“All series I’ve been hitting the ball hard, just right at people,” Lucas said. “Tonight was another one of those nights where I just tried to be aggressive early, look for fastballs early in the count. In this league I don’t like to get to two strikes because you never know what’s going to happen”
Lucas finished the night 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored. His home run in the third started another big inning for the Reds as they sent three more runners across the plate to make the score 8-3.
Despite the fact that they were facing elimination in each of the last two games, Lucas said the team never thought about the possibility of their season ending early.
“I don’t think so,” Lucas said when asked if the Reds were worried about getting knocked out. “That’s not something we’re really taking into consideration because we know we can have a big inning at anytime. Our pitchers are going to keep it close.”
The Dbacks didn’t give up the fight, putting up three runs in the top of the eighth, two of them coming from a Stephen Baker home run. It wasn’t enough to make a comeback, however, as Drafts’ season ended in the quarterfinals.
For the Reds, their semifinal opponent is still unknown and depends on the outcome of the New Market/Elkton series. If New Market wins the series, the Reds will face the Shockers in the next round. If Elkton wins, Bridgewater will take on Grottoes in the semifinals.
Whoever their opponent is, the defending champs are ready.
“Mainly we hope to get a lot of rest and get our pitchers back,” Lucas said. “Our pitchers have thrown a lot of pitches in these last three outings and our catchers have really had to sit there for a long time. So whoever they got coming, we’re ready for them and just hope for a great series.”
STUARTS DRAFT - In a complete turnaround from Monday night’s extra-innings loss, the Bridgewater Reds defeated Stuarts Draft 14-6 on Tuesday to even up the quarterfinal series at 1-1. Four home runs from the powerful Bridgewater lineup propelled the Reds to a dominating victory at the Diamond Club.
“Good things happen when you hit the ball hard and that’s kind of what we did, got a few runs early,” Bridgewater pitcher Tyler Bocock said. “I think that helped a little bit and just trying to settle in. We executed tonight and just added on well.”
Draft’s Ryan Cooper led off the bottom of the first with a solo home run for the first run of the game. The Dbacks’ lead lasted through the first three innings, but the Reds came to the plate ready to make a statement in the fourth.
Josh Wright led off the inning with a solo home run to left field. All-RCBL first baseman Brian Bocock followed suit with a shot of his own to nearly the same spot.
Two batters later, Andrew Armstrong hit the third home run of the inning as the Reds started to settle into a groove.
“I think we did a good job of adjusting after our first at bat and then coming out hitting balls and producing runs that way,” Bocock said about the Reds’ offense.
Bridgewater would go on to score six runs in the fifth inning and five more in the seventh to take a 14-1 lead, but the slaughter rule is not in effect in the postseason.
The Dbacks stayed in the fight with a three-run seventh inning and two runs coming in the ninth from Cooper’s second home run of the night, but they were unable to come back and Bridgewater took the game to tie the series.
Bocock picked up the win on the mound, tossing six innings and giving up two runs on five hits. The leadoff home run by Cooper might have rattled some pitchers, but Bocock settled in and led the Reds to their first win of the postseason.
“He hit it real, real good,” Bocock said about Cooper’s solo shot. “If you just stay attacking hitters overall, in the long run it works out for you, just getting outs, letting our defense do what they need to do.”
The Reds will host the Dbacks at Ray Heatwole Field tonight in a decisive game three. First pitch is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The RCBL has announced nominees for its four annual awards. Over the next week, coaches will vote for the MVP, Pitcher of the Year, Coach of the year and Rookie of the Year for the 2018 season.
Clover Hill leads the way with five overall nominations, including three for Pitcher of the Year. Bridgewater and Broadway each have two nominees, while Stuarts Draft, New Market and Elkton have one nominee each.
Brian Bocock and Tyler Bocock of Bridgewater are both nominated for MVP. Brian finished the season batting .407 with five home runs and 29 RBIs. Tyler hit .423 on the year with six home runs and led the league with 36 RBIs. The cousins were the Players of the Week for the final two weeks of the regular season.
New Market’s Nick Goode is the third nominee for MVP. Goode led the league in batting average this season, hitting .465 in 21 games. Goode also led the league in on base percentage (.543) and slugging percentage (.767). The Shockers’ outfielder had 10 doubles and two triples on the season along with four home runs.
Corey Armentrout, Kevin Chandler and Eric Yankey of Clover Hill are all nominated for Pitcher of the Year. Chandler led the league with a 1.63 ERA over 38.2 innings while Armentrout was tied for the lead in wins with a record of 4-0.
Yankey was one of the most dominant relief pitchers this season, picking up two saves for the Bucks while also earning four wins. Yankey’s 0.42 ERA and 29 strikeouts over 21.1 innings earned him a nomination for Pitcher of the Year.
Joining the Bucks’ trio is Elkton newcomer Kris Lalk. Lalk finished the season with a record of 1-4 and one save, but was one of the most unhittable pitchers in the league. His 87 strikeouts tied the Pointstreak-era record set by Nolan Shaffer in 2013. Lalk’s ERA of 2.39 was in the top 10 in the league.
Chris Cofer of Clover Hill and Justin Getz of Broadway are the nominees for Coach of the Year. Cofer guided the Bucks to their second-straight pennant and improved over last season by finishing the year with a record of 23-5.
Getz put together a team of young talent in Broadway that finished the season 18-10. The Bruins vastly improved from last season and nearly matched their total of 21 wins from 2014-2017, as pointed out by the RCBL’s Nick Stevens.
One of those young players from the Bruins is Dan Fry, who is nominated for Rookie of the Year. Fry finished the season batting .316 with four home runs and 26 RBIs. Joining him on the list is Stuarts Draft’s Will Hass, who batted .341 with four home runs and 19 RBIs. Hass had a breakout three home run game against Montezuma earlier in the season.
Rounding out the nominees for Rookie of the Year is Matt Larson of Clover Hill. Playing 23 games at catcher for the Bucks, Larson batted .329 on the year with 17 RBIs. The rookie backstop also stole six bases for Clover Hill.
The nominees have been sent to the coaches for voting and winners will be announced sometime in the coming weeks.