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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
GROTTOES- Behind a strong pitching performance from Adam Dofflemyer and big night from the bottom of the batting order, the Grottoes Cardinals became the first team to advance to the semi-finals of the 2018 RCBL playoffs.
With a 6-3 win on Monday night in front their home crowd, the fifth-seeded Cardinals completed their sweep of the four-seed Broadway Bruins.
Broadway struck first as starting pitcher John Judy scored on a Kevin Rush fielder’s choice in the top of the fourth, breaking up what had been a pitcher’s duel between Judy and Dofflemyer.
Grottoes responded in the bottom half of the inning with a four-run explosion, including a three-run double by Matt Curry. Curry upped his playoff RBI total to six in just two games.
Judy would try and pull his Bruins back in the eighth, driving in Bryce Strawderman with an RBI single and later scoring himself, pulling Broadway to within two, heading into the ninth inning
The comeback attempt would eventually fall short as Michael Wilhite came out to work a quick final frame and secure the series-clinching victory for the Cardinals.
Adam Dofflemyer was credited with the win after giving up just one run on four hits in his five innings of work. Meanwhile, the eight/nine hitters of Logan Grimm and Matt Curry combined to go 3-for-6 at the plate with two walks, four runs driven in, and a run scored.
The loss ends an impressive 2018 season for the Broadway Bruins. The Bruins finished the regular season with an 18-10 record, finishing third in the extremely competitive Western Division.
With a roster of young talent led by Head Coach Justin Getz, the Bruins are poised to come back just as strong in 2019. Their 18 wins this season nearly matched their entire win total from 2014-2017 (21 wins).
The rest of the playoffs will continue tonight, with every series but New Market/Elkton up for grabs.
BROADWAY - The first night of the RCBL playoffs played out just as expected, nothing is guaranteed. In last night’s matchup between the four-seed Broadway Bruins and five-seed Grottoes Cardinals, the Cardinals emerged victorious, taking game one by a score of 8-5.
Josh Pittman took the mound for the Cardinals, giving up three earned runs on eight hits, while striking out seven Bruin hitters. Pittman continued his quietly dominant season in the RCBL, leading his team one game closer to the semi-finals of the RCBL playoffs.
He received a welcomed early advantage in the top of the first inning as All-RCBL slugger Keegan Woolford slugged a three-run home run, setting the tone for this game early on.
The Bruins slowly mounted a comeback in the third and fourth innings against Pittman. Bryce Strawderman drew a bases loaded walk, followed by an RBI-single by veteran Kevin Rush to bring the Bruins to within one.
Matt Meiser would tie the game in the fourth inning, scoring on a passed ball on a Brady Duff strikeout.
After significant struggles throughout much of the regular season, Cardinals’ infielder Matt Curry continued his impressive streak at the plate, driving in a three-run double in the top of the sixth, giving the Cardinals a lead they would refuse to surrender for the rest of the evening.
Jacob Merica and Logan Grimm added a little insurance in the eighth inning with RBI-base hits, however, Brady Cockerham didn’t need the extra help, striking out the side in the ninth inning to slam the door shut on game one.
Grottoes is now just one game away from advancing the semi-finals. They will look to lock up the series tonight, as the series moves to Grottoes for game two (weather permitting). Assuming Cole Holsinger takes the ball for Broadway tonight, expect quite a show in Grottoes as the veteran-lead Bruins attempt to claw their way back to even the series.
The members of the All-RCBL team have been announced for the 2018 season. Members of the media met earlier this week to vote on the team, which was revealed on Saturday morning’s episode of the Play Ball show on ESPN 106.9 and 1360 WHBG.
Bridgewater and Clover Hill lead the way with four players from each team being honored. Bridgewater has four position players on the team while Clover Hill has three pitchers and one position player.
This year’s team features four players who were honored last season as well: Tyler Bocock, Drew Easter, Ryan Cooper and Corey Armentrout.
A number of statistical leaders were named to this year’s All-RCBL team. Home run leader Keegan Woolford made the team as a designated hitter. Nick Goode was named as an outfielder and currently leads the league with a .470 batting average with one game left in the season.
Regular season strikeout leader Kris Lalk and ERA leader Kevin Chandler were each named to the team as pitchers. Lalk tied the Pointstreak-era record of 87 strikeouts in a season for the Elkton Blue Sox this year.
Rookie Dan Fry was named to the team in his first season in the RCBL. Fry finished the season batting .316 with four home runs and 26 RBIs. Joining him is veteran Kevin Rush, who batted .292 with 14 RBIs in what is likely his final season.
Stuarts Draft veteran Ryan Cooper was named as a utility player after batting .416 with one home run and 16 RBIs for the Dbacks this season. Cooper’s main position is first base, but he also saw time at every infield position and outfield this season.
EMU product Kyle Mathews made the team as an outfielder, batting .378 with six home runs and 20 RBIs on the season. Mathews leads the Montezuma Braves in nearly every offensive category this season.
Below is the full list of players named to the 2018 All-RCBL team.
Catcher: Tyler Mahone, Bridgewater First Baseman: Brian Bocock, Bridgewater Second Baseman: Josh Wright, Bridgewater Shortstop: Tyler Bocock, Bridgewater Third Baseman: Kevin Rush, Broadway Outfielder: Kyle Mathews, Montezuma Outfielder: Nick Goode, New Market Outfielder: Dan Fry, Broadway Outfielder: Drew Easter, Clover Hill Utility: Ryan Cooper, Stuarts Draft Designated Hitter: Keegan Woolford, Grottoes Pitcher: Corey Armentrout, Clover Hill Pitcher: Kevin Chandler, Clover Hill Pitcher: Kris Lalk, Elkton Pitcher: Eric Yankey, Clover Hill
The end of the 2018 regular season is shaping up to be just like the beginning. Games that were originally scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday have been pushed back two days due to rain coming through the area this week.
Tonight’s schedule features two games around the league. Elkton travels to Bridgewater for an interdivisional matchup with the Reds. The New Market Shockers will play the Montezuma Braves at Montezuma Ruritan Field, although the Shockers will serve as the home team in the contest. Friday will see four games played on the last day of the regular season. Elkton will be on the road again as the Blue Sox take on the Diamondbacks at the Diamond Club in Stuarts Draft. Broadway will close out the season with a matchup against the Braves in Montezuma. New Market and Bridgewater will face each other at Ray Heatwole Field in their last game of the season.
The Grottoes Cardinals play host to the Clover Hill Bucks at 7:30 on Friday night in a critical matchup for the Cardinals. Tonight is Grottoes’ last game of the regular season and the Cards are just half a game behind New Market in the East Division.
The Cardinals need to win tonight’s game and need the Shockers to lose their next two games in order to win the division. If the two teams are tied in the standings when the season ends, the division champion will be decided by head-to-head performance during the regular season. New Market leads Grottoes three games to one in the regular season series.
With the final games of the season being pushed back, the playoff schedule has been changed as well. As of right now, the playoffs will begin on Sunday, July 29. The first round is a best of three series that will be played on consecutive nights.
Clover Hill has already clinched the one-seed in the playoffs and the Bucks will take on the Braves in the first round. The rest of the playoff matchups will be determined following the conclusion of the regular season.
With two games left in the season, Elkton, Stuarts Draft, Bridgewater and Broadway all have chances to improve their playoff seeding.
The 2018 All-RCBL team will be announced this Saturday, July 28 on the Play Ball show on ESPN 106.9 and 1360 WHBG. Karl Magenhofer and Mike Bocock will announce the players at each position who have been named to the All-RCBL team for their performance during the 2018 season.
Saturday morning’s show will be broadcast live from the Hall of Fame Sports Grill at 2264 Clover Hill Road in Dayton.