By Adam Harnish MONTEZUMA - RCBL fans need to get familiar with this name: Jose Rocha.
All he did Wednesday night was blast two home runs, tally three RBIs and stretch his on-base streak to ten straight games to lead Elkton to a 9-4 victory over the Montezuma Braves.
So, we had to know - which home run did he like better?
“The first one,” Rocha said with a laugh after the game. “That one was to center field...so yeah, the first one.”
The game started off back-and-forth, as the Blue Sox opened with two runs in the top of the first, courtesy of the aforementioned Rocha. But, the Braves responded with three runs in the bottom of the frame, highlighted by a 2 RBI single from Brandon Lambert.
So, in response, the Blue Sox tied it up in the next frame, 3-3. After a scoreless inning from the Braves, a JJ Loker solo shot gave Elkton the lead, which they never gave up for the rest of the game.
Holding down the fort for the Blue Sox on the mound was Matt Plotner, who threw eight innings, allowing only four runs with four strikeouts.
“It was amazing,” Rocha said of Plotner’s performance. “Like I said, we have his back, so he just filled up the strike zone today, and it was amazing for him to pitch today.”
Plotner, for his part, was quick to put the spotlight on his teammates after the game. “I’m just grateful I have such a great team to play for, because these guys are my family.”
Plotner was able to avoid major damage in the seventh and eighth inning, when the Braves had multiple runners on with less than two outs. Then, Jacob Rich came in as the closer to shut the door in a crucial victory for the Blue Sox, who now move to a 6-12 record.
For the Braves, they had multiple innings where they threatened to even up the game, but were unable to convert with runners in scoring position. It was a disappointing result for the team, who now fall to 7-13 on the year.
OTHER STANDOUT PERFORMANCES: Lee Carneal, Josh Good and Mack Rexrode all had multi-hit games for the Blue Sox...Two Braves hitters, Luke Paczewski and Alex Markapoulos, both got hits on Wednesday night, keeping their averages above .400 for the year...Josh Tayman threw three innings of relief for Montezuma, allowing only one run on two hits.
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).
By Adam Harnish Even though it’s early in the season, it’s pretty easy to say: it’s a good time to be a Clover Hill Bucks fan.
The Bucks won their sixth straight game on Saturday night, defeating the Montezuma Braves by a score of 9-2 to stretch their record to an impressive 6-0 to start the season.
“We’re playing good steady baseball,” Coach Cofer of the Bucks said after the game. “We’re pitching the ball really well right now.”
The Bucks’ pitching staff kept a dangerous Braves lineup to only two runs on the night, just a few days after that same lineup had erupted for 23 runs against the Blue Sox. Leading that pitching effort for the Bucks was starter Kevin Chandler, who went for six innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits and five strikeouts.
“He’s keeping the ball down really well,” Coach Cofer said of his starter. “He’s getting ahead, and he was picking well with his slider on the outside corner...he’s very efficient with his pitches.”
Chandler was matched by an equally good start by the Braves starting pitcher, Matt Sykes. Sykes also went six innings and allowed two earned runs on three hits and seven strikeouts. The pitchers’ duel extended into the top of the eighth inning, when the Bucks finally broke the game open with a six run burst.
“That’s pretty normal,” Chandler said of his offense’s performance. “They battle and grind, and we don’t get too pressured. We just stay in our game, and the hits will come.”
A series of errors in that inning dictated a late game meltdown for the Braves. The frustrating result for them has them at 3-3 on the year, still sitting at a respectable fourth place in the RCBL standings.
The Bucks are back in action on Tuesday when they play at home against the Broadway Bruins (3-0). The Braves have another home game on that same Tuesday against the Bridgewater Reds (1-3).
MONTEZUMA - The Clover Hill Bucks made it past the quarterfinals by taking down the Montezuma Braves, 12-3 last night at Ruritan Field.
“We made a couple mistakes tonight, a couple of errors, but we were very aggressive too. So we created some opportunities for us at the same time,” Coach Chris Cofer said about his team's performance last night.
The Bucks got on the board early in the first inning when a double from Tanner Moyers brought home Drew Easter, making it 1-0 heading into the second inning.
In the top of the third Luke Shiflett drew a bases loaded walk, sending Cody Warner home. Warner drove in John Siciliano in the fourth to make it 3-0 Bucks.
The Braves got on the board late in the game by bringing home two runs from Sam Imeson and Owen Stewart, making the score 3-2 going into the sixth inning.
The Bucks brought home three runs in the sixth inning, getting some momentum going with a stolen base by Kevin Kirk.
“One big play was Kevin Kirk stealing third base from that bunt attempt, that broke the game a little bit for us,” Cofer said about Kirk's big play.
Montezuma got their last run on the board bottom of the sixth as Kyle Armstrong got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, sending Imeson home.
Luke Shiflett hit a home run in the top of the seventh before the Bucks exploded for five runs in the eighth to win the game 12-3. With the win, Clover Hill advances to the semifinals. The Bucks will have to wait until the rest of the quarterfinals series get wrapped up before they'll know their opponent.
CLOVER HILL - The Clover Hill Bucks took a 10-7 win last night against the Montezuma Braves at home to take a one-game lead in the first round of the playoffs.
The Braves got on the board early in the first inning as an error made by the third baseman brought home Zach Roberts.
The Bucks answered back to that one run by bringing home four runs in the bottom of the first inning starting with an RBI from Cody Warner that brought home Ross French. A home run from Tanner Moyers brought home Alex Knicely and Blake Sipe, which made the score 4-1.
“That big home run in the first inning was really big, that made a big difference. Corey battled through and got us some innings to give us the chance to not throw so many arms in the back half of the game as we might have earlier,” Coach Chris Cofer said about Moyers' home run and the Bucks' pitching.
The Bucks added three more runs in the third and two in the fourth to widen their lead. Clover Hill scored their final run in the bottom of the seventh with an RBI groundout from Ross French bringing home Danny Grogg.
The Braves got into a rhythm just a little late in the eighth inning when they brought home five runs. Jordan Yankey scored on a single from Brandon Lambert to start the inning for the Braves. Kyle Mathews hit a grand slam which brought home Lambert, Kyle Armstrong, and Cody Fitzgerald, making the score 10-7.
The Bucks were able to retire the side in order in the top of the ninth to take the win in game one. The two teams will face off again in game two tonight at Montezuma Ruritan Park.
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
MONTEZUMA - The New Market Shockers had one goal Thursday night in Montezuma, win the game and clinch the #2 seed in this year’s RCBL playoffs. Unfortunately for New Market and their fans, the Montezuma Braves decided to play the role of spoiler, defeating the Shockers 3-0.
Colin Benner took the mound for New Market, tossing seven innings of three-hit ball. He gave up just one earned run and two walks while striking out seven, completing a quality start and an impressive performance on the mound.
Unfortunately, his offense mustered just six hits, spread out over nine innings against the Montezuma duo of Brendon Salladay (7 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 0 K) and Brandon Lambert (2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K).
The Braves broke a scoreless game in the third inning with Zach Roberts drawing a bases loaded walk, followed by a sacrifice fly by Montezuma cleanup hitter, Kyle Mathews.
Mathews would later drive in his second RBI of the game and 20th of the season on a single in the sixth inning, scoring Roberts and giving the Braves a 3-0 lead.
With the loss, New Market now finds themselves tied with Grottoes for first place in the Eastern Division with just one more night left in the RCBL regular season (those words hurt to type).
*Insert dramatic music here* It all comes down to this, maybe. Every single team is in action tonight with New Market taking on the Bridgewater Reds at Ray Heatwole Field, while Grottoes battles the Clover Hill Bucks at home.
If either New Market or Grottoes wins and the other team loses, the winner will lock up the Eastern Division and the #2 seed. If both teams win or lose, the East Division title comes down to head-to-head matchups during the regular season, where New Market has a 3-1 advantage.
Grab your lawn chairs and find a ballfield. The 2018 RCBL regular season is going away quietly.
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.
BRIDGEWATER - The Bridgewater Reds went down early, but were able to mount a comeback as they defeated the Montezuma Braves 11-6 on Sunday night.
The dark clouds over Ray Heatwole Field gave the game an ominous feeling as the Reds found themselves in a hole early on. The Braves jumped out to a 3-0 lead over the first three innings before Bridgewater started to get into a groove.
“We just kept battling,” Reds head coach Robert Sherfey said. “You have slow starts sometimes. We hit the ball hard, just hit it right at them. You’ve just got to keep battling, keep your heads up, keep passing it on and hope that things will turn out, and they did.”
The Reds scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth, but still weren’t able to get ahead as the Braves added two more runs in the top of the sixth.
Even after the Reds had gotten their offense going, they couldn’t find a way to stop the Montezuma bats. Enter Tyler Bocock. Coming onto the mound in the sixth to relieve John Page, Bocock got himself out of a jam as Montezuma left the bases loaded in the inning.
“Just come in and throw strikes, make them hit the ball,” Bocock said about his mentality coming into the game with runners on. “Just wanted to keep it close because I know if we keep it close long enough, our offense will strike like it did and we’ll end up winning the ballgame.”
The Braves would leave two men on in each of the next two innings and one in the ninth as Bocock finished out the game for the Reds. Bocock pitched 3.2 innings, giving up just one run on six hits.
Soon after he came into the game, the Reds had a six-run sixth inning to take their first lead of the night and give Bocock more confidence on the mound.
“Once you get runs and we’re ahead, you just go out there and pound the zone and let the defense do what they do,” Bocock said. “It puts the momentum back in our favor and I think we did a good job of that tonight.”
The defense that Bocock spoke of did their job well as they were able to get their pitcher out of tough situations late in the game. Every time the Braves had an offensive opportunity, Bridgewater would find a way to get out of the inning. The Reds defense caused Montezuma to leave 15 runners stranded in the game.
Meanwhile in the Bridgewater lineup, the Reds combined for 12 hits. Four batters had multi-hit performances, including Brian Bocock, who finished the night 2-for-5 with two runs scored and two RBIs. Derek Shifflet went 2-for-4 on the night with two runs and three RBIs.
The win moves the Reds to 19-7 on the season, but with just two games left, they’ll have to settle for second place in the West as Clover Hill has clinched the pennant and the West Division title. Provided the weather holds up, the Reds will finish out the season with a game against Elkton on Tuesday and New Market on Wednesday, both at home. As Coach Sherfey says, though, there’s no telling what might happen with the forecast this week.
“We’ve kind of got our plans for what we want to do, but we can’t control Mother Nature, so if it happens to be so be it,” Sherfey said about the impending rain this week. “We’ll just go with what it is and play it when it’s there and available.”
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.