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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Brian Bocock and Corey Armentrout have been named the Bob Wade Player and Pitcher of the Week for the eighth week of the RCBL season.
Bocock batted .520 during the week with two home runs and nine RBIs as he helped lead the Reds to four wins. He had four multi-hit games this week, including two three-hit games and one four-hit game.
The Reds started the week with a 17-4 win over Stuarts Draft, a game in which Bocock went 3-for-5 with three runs scored and a home run.
After a 6-3 loss to Broadway on Wednesday, the Reds dominated in a 14-0 win over Elkton. Bocock finished the night 3-for-5 with two runs scored and his second home run of the week. He also drove in four runs on the night.
On Friday night, Bocock had four hits against Montezuma as he came around to score twice in a 13-1 win. The former Major-Leaguer finished the week with a 2-for-5 night at home against the Braves as the Reds won 11-6.
Bridgewater finishes out the season with games this week against Elkton and New Market, both at home.
Corey Armentrout got the start for Clover Hill on Sunday night in a matchup against the New Market Shockers. The reigning Pitcher of the Year pitched eight shutout innings as the Bucks clinched the pennant.
Armentrout struck out 11 batters while only giving up two hits and one walk as Clover Hill won 9-0. He improves to 4-0 on the season with 45 strikeouts.
The Bucks finish out the season on the road Tuesday against Grottoes.