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By Leyton Pullin
The Grottoes Cardinals walked into Shifflett Field on Sunday evening after 2 off nights including one where they received a forfeit victory to improve to the 3 seed in the RCBL playoffs giving them home field advantage against 6th seeded Montezuma in the best of 3 first round series.
The Cardinals would hand the ball to Austin Nicely for the staff in Game 1 and he would cruise through the 1st and would get some early run support as Dylan Nicely would dig in with two outs in the bottom of the 1st and would head a moon shot out the park to center to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. Austin Nicely would help himself out too following David with a stand up triple to right field. He would score as well on an error at 1st base to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.
Grottoes would extend their lead in the 3rd inning with a big 5 run inning. Keegan Woolford would open it up with a solo bomb to right center. Jacob Merica would double and then score on a Jacob Dansey RBI single. David Wood followed with a RBI single of his own to score Dansey from 3rd. Wood would later score along with Tristan Shoemaker on a Cam Irvine 2 RBI single making the score 7-0 Grottoes. In the next half inning Montezuma would test Nicely in the mound for the first time all night as they would load the bases with a Adam Hackenburg double, a Jacob Haney single, and a very patient four pitch walk to Jacob Houser with 1 out. Nicely would settle in as he has most of the season and would calmly strike out Wyatt Campbell and Gavin Rush to get out of the jam.
Montezuma would test the former Astros 10th round pick as Micheal Robertson would double to start the 6th inning followed by some small ball as Owen Stewart would sacrifice bunt to move Robertson over to 3rd. Robertson would eventually score on a Kyle Armstrong ground out to put Montezuma on the board 7-1. Grottoes would respond quickly and big much like they have in the last 10 games. Dylan Nicely would start the parade in the bottom of the 6th followed by an Austin Nicely single and a Keegan Woolford walk to load the bases up. Jacob Mercia would strike out looking but would get some assistance as Jacob Dansey would hit another RBI single followed by a Jacob Zoller bases loaded walk. David Wood would deliver right on cue with a 3 RBI double to push the score out to 12-1.
Grottoes would get the win 12-1 by virtue of the mercy rule after the top of the 7th to take a 1-0 series lead.
After the game Grottoes Manager Tim Nicely has three keys that described his team’s success on the night, “Timely hitting, good pitching, and making the plays in the field when we needed to.” On the other side of things Montezuma manager Chris Rush said.” The biggest thing is we gotta come hit.”
Looking ahead to Game 2 scheduled for Monday night at Ruritan Park in Montezuma Grottoes will start VCU standout Mike Dailey who’s coming off a start where he shut down the Clover Hill Bucks with 13 strikeouts including 12 in a row. Montezuma has not announced who they will start in Game 2.
By Josiah SchulzThe long-awaited rematch between last year‘s finalists, the Bridgewater Reds and the Clover Hill Bucks, ended in the only way to suffice their deep rivalry: controversial.
Bridgewater came into tonight looking for vengeance for their heartbreaking 6 game outing and eventual loss in last year’s finals. Tonight, they played at a level they haven’t quite reached this entire season; near perfection. The Reds scored 11 runs on 11 hits, also subsequently RBI’ing 11 players. Much to the contrary of Clover Hill, who tonight only hit the ball two times total over the course of 7 innings, 23 at bats, and 0 runs at the hands of Reds pitcher and former James Madison baseball player Derrek Shifflett.
Not only would Shifflett pitch the entire, runless game this evening; his batting came up huge for tonight’s victory. Shifflett would score 2 runs and RBI 3 of his teammates tonight.
“Low-ground balls. Keep it low, throw two seams.. That was literally the plan tonight.” Said Shifflett. “I trust my fielders. We’ve had some errors over the season, but today, nothing. Tonight was perfect.”
Shifflett would certainly not be the only player with a standout performance in tonight’s matchup. From seasoned veterans like Grey Shirfey and George Laase, who would perform lights out defensively and combine for 3 runs and 2 RBI’s - to Mason Mitchell and Jonathan Sexton who are just now experiencing their first taste of the intense rivalry, being this their first seasons with RCBL. Both Mitchell and Sexton played crucial roles defensively, however offensively, they contributed a combined 5 runs and 3 RBI’s in tonight’s dominant victory.
Tonight would also be the return of the prodigal son of the Bridgewater Reds, and reigning league MVP, Corbin Lucas. Lucas has missed a good portion of the final quarter of the regular season due to a leave of absence for his work. He would show no signs of rust as the right fielder showed up when it counted. Lucas would send home a bomb Home Run early in the 6th that would boost the offensive power of the Reds to a whole other level, RBI ing 3 guys in the process.
Lucas has played all of his RCBL seasons with the Reds, so if anybody knows about how enormous this rivalry is to the community, it would be him.
“Last year left a real sour taste in our mouths.” Said Lucas. “Through the years, we’ve developed a healthy, borderline unhealthy relationship with these guys. A lot of us grew up playing with or against these guys our whole careers. So to come here and to beat them on their home field, especially considering we’ve lost every single game we’ve played on this field this season, that felt great and I think that’s gonna be the jumpstart we need to move forward.”
By the time the bottom of the 7th inning came around, the score was 11-0 in Bridgewater’s favor. By typical baseball standards, and in the case of tonight, the game would conclude if any team is losing by 10 runs or more going into the 8th inning. This sparked a little bit of confusion and disapproval particularly from the Clover Hill fans, but especially from Bucks head coach Kevin Chandler.
“In all my 11 years, there has never been a slaughter rule in the playoffs and apparently there is this year until you get to the championship.” Said Chandler. “I had no idea about it, so that’s why I didn’t understand, however that's the rule, I guess and nothing we can do about it now.”
Bridgewater had their struggles earlier on in the season, however in accordance with RCBL folklore, tremendous offense of the Reds always finds a way to prevail and make a show in the playoffs, regardless of the regular season. Despite some hard-to-watch performances by the Reds in the beginning this season, one person in particular never lost faith in his team. This would be, of course, head coach Robert Sherfey.
“This win tonight was very important. Very, very important.” Said Shirfey. “I made sure to remind everyone that was on the team last year about how bad that loss stung. It really chewed on us all throughout the winter time. We just really wanted to prove who we really are, and we sure did that tonight. We are the Bridgewater Reds. We just had to push through some ups and downs. We’ll be contenders. Take nothing away from them, they are a great team, but we will be there and we’ll be fighting until the end.”
If you love the game of baseball, you will absolutely not want to miss tomorrow night’s game 2 of the potential 3 game series. Bridgewater looks to carry over their steamroll performance and take revenge against their arch nemesis, Clover Hill. If the Bucks lose tomorrow night, the former #1 team in the league and reigning league Champions will be eliminated from contention very early in the playoffs. A lot is at stake tomorrow night, you do not want to miss it! Reds @ Buck Bowman Park, tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m.
Final Score: Reds 11 - Bucks 0
By Megan Phelps
Wanda Willis has lived in Grottoes her whole life and enjoyed going to most of the RCBL games. Her daughter is on the board and asked Wanda to run the Cardinal’s Facebook page. Wanda ran the Harrisonburg Fire Department’s page when she was a prevention officer. Wanda runs everything, including taking her own pictures and writing her own stories on the Facebook page. She makes sure to get permission from the sources of her articles to ensure that everyone is okay with the information that is about to be made public. Wanda posts pictures after every game and only uses a Cannon 60 HS. Her only complaint is that it does not do well in the dark and she must use flash if she wants to capture any of the players at night. Of course, she does this at convenient times, so she does not distract the players.
In the off season, Wanda wanted to keep interest in the Cardinals, thus Coach Cardinal was born. Coach Cardinal is a stuffed cardinal that she strategically places in hilarious situations around the ball parks. She remembers the first picture she posted was Coach Cardinal stuck in a tree with a police officer trying to get him down. Last year Coach Coffer took a picture with the cardinal, scolding him for putting, “Go Cardinals!” flyers in the Clover Hill dugouts. Her plan worked; people started messaging asking what shenanigans the cardinal would be getting into that day. She disclosed that fans will be seeing more of him this season as well.
Wanda was inspired from a similar prop they used over at the Harrisonburg Fire Department. They bought Safety Sally and used it to demonstrate proper safety practices. Wanda worked as a prevention officer and often taught 3rd graders, 7th graders, and high school seniors with Sally to show real life situations. They worked closely with the police department to make this happen. They had Sally be pulled over for riding a bike without and helmet, and another time for driving without a seatbelt.
Wanda had another suggestion for this season as well. She wanted to bring in more people and thought that singing the National Anthem live would help numbers grow. People from the community had the opportunity to get up and perform the anthem this season. Every game they had managed to get a local personality to sing. Wanda said she has personally known some of the singers and other times she asked them to sing after meeting them at different events. “You always need to be thinking about these types of things,” Wanda said about the recruiting process. One gentleman brought about 20 people with him to the game just to watch him sing the National Anthem. It was a huge success and she believes they will be keeping this tradition alive as well.
By Megan Phelps
Mike Schikman is in his second year of announcing for the Grottoes Cardinals. He got started because he had a rough year physically, and when they asked him to join, he jumped at the opportunity. Although it is his second year with the Cardinals, they are not the first team in the RCBL that he has announced for. When Bill Phipps, the announcer for the Clover Hill Bucks, first had a decline in health, Mike subbed in for him. Clover Hill reached out because he was known for announcing the little league games of the famous Bowman brothers, Dustin and Addison. He also knew many players from announcing high school games. When asked why he did not stay with the Bucks, his answer was simple, “I’m not their guy, Bill was their guy.” He could not bear the thought of replacing his friend at Clover Hill.
Mike has announced play-by-plays for JMU’s men, and women, basketball and football. He has also announced for rec leagues, including an alumni men’s basketball league. He reflected on how he gets to know so many people and players through what he does. “A funny thing happened, I saw the name Curry on the roster and immediately wrote down Clint because he was one of the greatest players, I have seen in the last 25 years. Now his son plays for the RCBL as well.” Mike continues with saying that the RCBL is a family and that puts them apart from other leagues.
Mike says that coming to work for the Cardinals felt like coming home. He says people are just so good to him, not only to him but says that is just the way they are. He knows many players and families and they have gone out of their way to make him feel welcome. He says, “They are nice people, when you have a chance to work with nice people, that’s everything.”
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