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By Dean Barker
With a 5-1 home win over the Grottoes Cardinals on Friday, July 23, the New Market Shockers clinched the 2021 RCBL Regular Season Championship, and will be the #1 seed for the playoffs. The pennant is their first regular season title, and just the second title in franchise history, as New Market won the 1972 RCBL Championship as Twin City.
“I’m happy to do this for New Market, first time in 49 years,” Shockers head coach Nolan Potts said. “Just proud of them, you know. (It’s) something we were working towards since I came here. I’ve been here eight years, I’ve been coaching three years, we’ve been working towards this. To be able to do it this year is a satisfying feeling.” Potts is a former Shockers player, in addition to being the head coach.
With the win, the Shockers improved to 15-5. Their regular season finale is slated for tonight at home versus the Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks at 7:30 pm. New Market will take on the #8 Elkton Blue Sox in the first round of the playoffs. The loss concluded the Grottoes regular season at 9-12. Grottoes will be the #6 seed in the playoffs; their opponent has yet to be determined.
Ethan Laird pitched a complete game for the Shockers to improve to 1-1, striking out eight with one earned run and just one hit. Laird was perfect through two and one third innings, and had a no-hitter into the fifth. Tucker Garrison was tabbed with the loss, giving up four earned runs on nine hits in eight innings with nine strikeouts. Andrew Baugher pitched one perfect inning of relief to get the no-decision.
Laird credited his exceptional night on the mound to recent bullpen work.
“I had a little twitch in the bullpen to where I was able to find a good mechanic that I was able to repeat, and I was able to throw all three of my pitches for a strike,” Laird said. “It was unhittable, basically, I was just filling it in there.”
The Shockers took the lead for good in the first inning, as Henry Delavergne’s leadoff single was followed up by a left field double by Frankie Ritter. Pearce Bucher would hit a sacrifice fly to plate Delavergne, and Ritter would come home on a single from Luke Estep to give New Market a 2-0 lead.
David Wood was able to beat out a grounder to shortstop Ritter to break up the no-hitter with two outs in the fifth. The Cardinals almost escaped the bottom half, but shortstop Clayton Michael’s fadeaway throw couldn’t beat Ritter on an infield single. Ritter would steal second, and the throw from catcher Dylan Nicely would go into the outfield and allow him to score and push the lead to 3-0.
Boogie Saunders would lead off the top of the sixth with a walk, and would steal second. However, Laird would pick him off, and the Cardinals would go silently, making way for an RBI single from Luke Keister to make it 4-0 New Market.
Ritter would make his rounds again in the seventh, as he would single to left field and steal second. He would then steal third and score on a wild throw from Nicely, giving the Shockers their fifth and final run.
Saunders led off the ninth with a walk, and stole second base with one out. With two down, he would steal third and come home on a wild throw from catcher Ty Bennet to give the Cardinals their first run. That would be all, as Laird would strike out Dylan Nicely for the final out.
The Cardinals had four errors which led to one unearned run, and left three runners on base. The Shockers had two errors which did not account for the run, and left five runners on base.
Saunders went 0-2 with two walks and a run scored, while reaching on a fielder’s choice. Keegan Wolford went 0-3 with one walk. Wood was 1-3 with the one and only Cardinal hit.
Keister went 2-4 with one RBI. Ritter was 3-4 with three runs scored. Estep was 1-4 with one RBI. Matt House and Delavergne both went 1-4 with a run scored. Bennet went 1-4. Bucher went 0-2 with a walk and an RBI. The Shockers had nine hits on the night.
Potts thinks the Shockers will need to stick to fundamentals to win the RCBL Championship.
“(If) we do all three well, we get good pitching (we throw strikes), we get hits, and the defense plays well behind them, that’s gonna be the key to our success moving forward,” Potts said. “We’re not taking anybody lightly, because it’s the playoffs, and we learned in the first game a couple of years ago (that) anything can happen in the playoffs. So we’ve just gotta come ready to go, one more game tomorrow, but then get ready for next week.”
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