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By Dean Barker
In a pitcher’s duel turned slugfest, the New Market Shockers pulled past the Bridgewater Reds 9-7 in game one of the RCBL Semifinals at Rebel Field on Saturday, July 31. With the win, the Shockers improved to 18-6 on the season and took a 1-0 lead in the series, while the Reds fell to 8-16 and went down 0-1.
Kirk Messick picked up the win to improve to 6-0, striking out three with no runs, no hits and just one walk in two and a third innings. In the second inning, Messick received the RCBL Pitcher of the Year award. Messick, who is also an assistant coach, business owner, and father of three, credited his success to his “very understanding wife.”
“I think that’s been my biggest key, is her being willing to let me do this still,” Messick said.
Messick relieved Joel Smith, who gave up seven runs (one earned) with ten hits and eleven strikeouts to get the no-decision.
Nick Griffin took the loss to fall to 0-3, giving up three runs (two earned) on four hits in two innings. He relieved Pablo Suarez, who gave up six runs (two earned) in six innings on seven hits with nine strikeouts.
Grey Sherfey looped a single to center field with one out in the top of the second, and Noah Cornwell followed up with a ground rule double to left center. However, Sherfey was caught in a rundown on a grounder from Matthew Wine to Smith, and Suarez flew out to end the inning.
Calvin Pastel singled in the bottom half, and Brayden Hovatter would reach on an error from the third baseman Antonio Florentino-Sosa. Pastel would reach third on the error, and came home on a wild pitch from Suarez to Ethan Laird, who would strike out. Luke Keister was hit with two outs, and he and Hovatter advanced 90 feet on a wild pitch, but Pearce Bucher struck out to end the inning with a 1-0 Shocker lead.
Luke Estep singled to lead off the bottom of the third, and he reached third on an error from shortstop Griffin, which also allowed Ty Bennett to reach first. Following this sequence of events, Reds head coach Robert Sherfey had Sosa and Griffin switch positions. Suarez struck out the next three batters to escape the jam.
Corbin Lucas led off the sixth with a standup double to center field. Sosa moved him to third with a single up the middle. Hunter Miller struck out swinging, but Sherfey would reach on an error from third baseman Kaden Spaid to load the bases. Cornwell would walk to tie the game at 1. Smith struck out Wine and Suarez to end the inning.
With two on in the bottom half, a grounder to the shortstop Sosa was bobbled, allowing Spaid to score. Laird struck out, but after Keister was hit to load the bases, a wild pitch to Bucher allowed Pastel to score. After a walk to Bucher, Estep would drive in three with a single to center to make it 6-1 New Market. Suarez made a diving stop on a grounder from Bennett to end the inning.
With one out in the top of the seventh, Griffin reached second on a throwing error from shortstop Matt House. Lucas drove him home with a double to center, and Sosa reached second on a throwing error from Spaid, also plating Lucas. Miller followed up with a double to deep center field to cut the lead to 6-4. Sherfey and Cornwell were walked to load the bases, and Wine would drive in one with a single to right. Suarez struck out, but Brett Tharp ripped a liner to right field to drive in two and give the Reds a 7-6 lead. Shockers head coach Nolan Potts decided to replace Smith with Messick, who struck out Griffin to stop the bleeding.
Griffin switched to the mound in the bottom half. House led off with a single to right. Spaid moved him to second with a groundout to the pitcher. Pastel reached second on a wild throw from Wine at second, allowing House to score. Hovatter would single to center to take back the Shocker lead at 8-7.
With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Bennett reached with a single to left field. House would drive him in with a double to center field, and would reach third on an error from the catcher Tharp. Spaid would strike out to end the inning with a 9-7 lead.
Cornwell flew out to right to lead off the ninth. Nathan Brooks struck out, and Suarez grounded out to first to end the game.
The Reds left eleven runners on base, and had six errors which led to five unearned runs. The Shockers left nine runners on base, and had four errors leading to six unearned runs.
Estep went 1-4 with three RBIs. House was 3-5 with an RBI and a run scored. Hovatter went 1-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. Pastel went 2-4 with three runs scored. New Market had eleven hits on the evening.
Tharp went 1-5 with two RBIs. Lucas went 2-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Cornwell went 2-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Miller went 1-5 with an RBI and a run scored. Wine was 1-4 with an RBI. The Reds had ten hits.
Messick, who rarely comes in relief, says he didn’t try to do anything different.
“I just got into the mentality that I normally had as a younger guy, ‘Just gotta go in there and do my job’,” Messick said. “I’ve started all year, I haven’t really had to come into relief except for one time, and I just came in and threw strikes like I always do.”
Bridgewater will hope to even the series tonight at 6:30 pm when they host New Market at Ray Heatwole Field for game two.
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