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.
ELKTON - Friday night, the Grottoes Cardinals fell one run shy of completing a ninth-inning comeback against the Clover Hill Bucks. On Saturday night, the Cardinals completed the job.
On an uncharacteristically cold night in Elkton, the Cardinals defeated the Blue Sox, 8-3, after scoring five runs in the top of the ninth inning. With their win, Grottoes remains just one game behind New Market in the race for the East, with just a few more days remaining in the regular season.
The story of the night was St. Bonaventure RHP Josh Pittman. Coming off back-to-back performances against Clover Hill and Bridgewater in which he was hit hard and often, Pittman gave up just four hits and two earned runs across seven innings.
His counterpart, potential RCBL Pitcher of the Year Kris Lalk, went 8.2 innings, striking out 10 hitters in the process. Unfortunately, four errors behind him ultimately cost his team the game. Lalk now sits at 87 strikeouts in 52.2 innings.
Brady Cockerham relieved Pittman in the eighth inning, putting in another high quality performance. Cockerham struck out four across two innings, refusing to allow a hit or a walk. He has very quietly put up 2-0 record and 1.39 ERA in seven relief outings this summer.
As for the offense, Grottoes took a two-run lead into the bottom of the fifth, after an RBI-single by Ray Tricarico and Keegan Woolford’s ninth home run of the season.
JJ Loker’s two-run double in the bottom of the seventh gave Elkton a 3-2 lead, until the ninth inning.
Dan Scott led the inning with a HBP, followed by a Logan Grimm single, and an error on a Jacob Merica ground ball. With no outs and the bases loaded, the Cardinals went to work.
Keegan Woolford drew a bases loaded walk, Dylan Nicely recorded an RBI-single, and Eli Lam drew a walk, giving the Cardinals a 5-3 lead with just one out.
Two more runs would come across on a Jacob Zoller single, finalizing the Cardinals’ rally.
Tonight, weather pending, New Market and Elkton have big matchups against Western Division foes, Clover Hill and Bridgewater, respectively. Both games will have a big impact on Grottoes and their standing in the Eastern Division.
Grottoes has just one game left on their schedule, a must-win against the Clover Hill Bucks at home on Tuesday, July 24th.
Clover Hill 8, Montezuma 3
The Clover Hill Bucks scored four runs in the first inning to take an early lead on the way to an 8-3 win over Montezuma on Saturday. Clover Hill added one more run in the third, two in the fifth and one in the eighth to complete the victory.
Bucks' starter Tanner Moyers didn't allow any base runners through the first four and a third innings. Moyers finished the night with six innings pitched, allowing just one run on four hits and striking out six batters.
Clover Hill catcher Cody Warner finished the night 3-for-4 with two runs scored and five RBIs. Warner hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning that scored Blake Sipe.
The Bucks improve to 20-5 on the season with the win. The Bucks have a 2.5 game lead over the Bridgewater Reds with two games left in the season. Their next matchup comes tonight against New Market at Buck Bowman Park.
New Market 11, Stuarts Draft 10
The Shockers were the first to get on the board last night on their way to a win over Stuarts Draft. A home run from Josh Tayman brought home Chase Smallwood to give the Shockers an early lead.
New Market put six more runs on the board during the fourth inning, which started with a RBI hit from Nolan Potts and an error made by Staurts Draft that brought home Joseph Rutherford.
Chase Smallwood walked to first bringing home teammate Billy Quinn, making the score 4-0. Ty Michau brought home Smallwood, Potts, and Gavin Rush with an RBI later in the inning.
Josh Tayman hit a sacrifice fly and brought home Michaud as the Shockers finished the fourth inning leading 8-0.
The Diamondbacks answered back by bringing home four runs in the bottom of the fourth. Ryan Cooper started the four runs with a double that brought home Tyler Wilcher and Zach Brown, which made the score 8-2.
The Shockers scored one run in the sixth and two in the seventh to make the score 11-4.
The Diamondbacks answered back in the eighth and ninth, but couldn’t get past the Shockers, making the final score 11-10.
The Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks will play again against the Elkton Blue Sox on July 25 at the Diamond Club. First pitch is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The New Market Shockers will play again tonight against the Clover Hill Bucks at Buck Bowman Park. First pitch is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
GROTTOES - The Clover Hill Bucks improved their record last night to a league-best 20-5. An early offensive output and an unlikely bullpen hero emerged to secure a 7-6 road win over the Grottoes Cardinals.
Tyler Conley scored the first run of the game for the Bucks on a passed ball, right before cleanup hitter Luke Shifflett sent his second home run of the season up and over the outfield fence.
The Bucks would add two more in the second, as Kevin Kirk and Alex Knicely would come around and score on an error by Cardinals’ third baseman, Eli Lam.
Grottoes made things interesting in the sixth, pulling to within one after a four run explosion against the Clover Hill bullpen.
Three straight walks given up by Alex Knicely to load the bases for the Cardinals with no one out. Enter second baseman, Kevin Kirk. Kirk took the mound the first time this season in a less than ideal situation.
Keegan Woolford’s bases loaded walk scored the first run of the inning, followed by a two-run single by Dylan Nicely. Woolford would score the final run of the inning on an Eli Lam groundout, putting the Cardinals within striking distance of a big late-season win.
Kirk made sure that wasn’t going to happen, giving up just two hits and striking out three over the final three innings.
With the win, Clover Hill keeps their two game lead over the Bridgewater Reds for first place in the Western Division. With just a few days remaining in the regular season, the Bucks appear headed for the top seed in this year’s playoffs.
Grottoes remains in the tight race for the Eastern Division title, sitting just one game behind New Market. They travel to Elkton tonight for a must-win game against the Blue Sox. As for Clover Hill, the Bucks will travel to Montezuma tonight to take on the Braves and extend their Western Division lead.
NEW MARKET - The RCBL’s East Division has a new leader going into the final week of the season. New Market hosted Grottoes on Wednesday night, defeating the Cardinals 6-5 to move into first place in the East.
The game was every bit as dramatic as a battle for first place should be, with multi-run innings, late-game comebacks, and an extra-inning walk-off victory by the home team Shockers.
New Market took a one-run lead off an RBI single by Ty Michaud in the second inning, but a five-run fifth inning by the Cardinals gave them a big lead going forward. Adam Dofflemyer, Jacob Merica, Keegan Woolford, Dylan Nicely and Eli Lam all came around to score in the fifth as the Cardinals started to pull away.
New Market slowly chipped away at the lead by sending Trenton Burgreen across the plate in the sixth and Nick Goode in the seventh.
Trailing by two runs going into the bottom of the ninth, the top of the Shockers order came up to the plate. Joseph Rutherford walked with one out before Goode drove him home with an RBI triple. Goode came around to score in the inning to tie it up and send the game to extras.
Grottoes wasn’t able to get anything going in the 10th and 11th innings and the top of the Shockers order came back to the plate to lead off the 11th. After the first two batters got out, Goode singled on a full count to keep the Shockers’ hopes alive late in the evening.
Pat Wingfield stepped up to the plate with Goode on first, hoping to close out the game for New Market. The former UVA infielder drove a fly ball into right field, where it bounced in and out of Ray Tricarico’s glove and allowed Goode to score, winning the game for New Market.
It took him a couple of tries, though. As he was heading home down the third base line, Goode dove too early and ended up a few feet in front of home plate. He got up and made another attempt, this time touching home plate and sending the Shockers home victorious.
“[Coach Rush] said 'You gotta get on your horse' and I caught my feet and tried to barrel roll to the plate,” Goode said about his scoring play. “It was terrible but hey, we won, so who cares?”
Goode’s efforts earned him a Gatorade shower from his teammates, which he enjoyed despite the cool weather in New Market last night.
“It felt pretty good after a W,” Goode said. “It felt like old times. I played in the Valley League last summer and that’s what we used to do. That’s what it feels like now, we’re getting excited, so it’s awesome.”
Goode finished the night 3-for-5 with three runs scored and an RBI. He also came just a home run short of hitting for the cycle. The centerfielder out of Shenandoah University had some key at bats for the Shockers and he said he felt confident in every one.
“I knew we had a great pitcher with Benner on the mound who was going to keep us in the game,” Goode said. “Keeping it at five runs, I knew we could just chip away. Just keep putting in good at bats, that’s all that matters with the team.”
With the win over Grottoes and Elkton’s loss at Montezuma last night, New Market sits alone on top of the East Division at 10-14. The Shockers have four more games to finish out the season, only one of which is against an East Division team.
New Market’s next matchup comes on Saturday night as the Shockers head to Stuarts Draft to take on the Diamondbacks. That game will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Diamond Club.