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By Dean Barker
Up 14-8 in the bottom of the ninth, the New Market Shockers managed to barely hold on 14-13 at the Bridgewater Reds to win game two of the RCBL semifinals. With the win, the 19-6 Shockers are one win away from going back to the championship, while the 8-17 Reds are one loss away from elimination.
Ethan Laird picked up the win to move to 2-1, giving up four runs (one earned) in two and two thirds innings. Derek Shifflett pitched the complete game and had nine strikeouts, but took the loss after giving up fourteen runs (eleven earned) on seventeen hits to fall to 5-4.
Shockers head coach Nolan Potts, who started the game at first base, said Shifflett was easier to hit off of after seeing him so many times.
“Derek’s a great pitcher, everybody knows that,” Potts said. “When you see a pitcher enough, you’re gonna start putting better swings, and I think as the game went on, our swings got better.”
Frankie Ritter led off the game with a double over right fielder and manager Robert Sherfey’s head, followed up by an RBI single from Pearce Bucher. Luke Estep would reach on a fielder’s choice at second, and scored on a double to right from Ty Bennett.
Shifflett led off the bottom half with a walk, and Brett Tharp reached first with a bunt single to Prosperi. Corbin Lucas drove in one with a double to left, and Noah Cornwell walked to load the bases for Grey Sherfey. Sherfey grounded into a double play, but Tharp managed to score and tie the game at two.
Calvin Pastel led off the second with a single, and moved to second on a sacrifice from Brayden Hovatter. Henry Delavergne moved him to third with a grounder, and Ritter drove him home with a double to right to give New Market a 3-2 lead.
Shifflett singled over Hovatter’s head at second to start the bottom of the third, and reached second on a sacrifice groundout from Tharp. With two outs, Shifflett went to third and scored on two passed balls in a walk to Cornwell, tying the score at three.
Pastel singled to start the fourth, and Hovatter and Delavergne walked to load the bases. However, the Shockers would waste this opportunity. Ritter’s grounder to Antonio Florentino-Sosa resulted in Pastel being out at home, Shifflett struck out Bucher, and Estep grounded out to second to end the inning with the 3-3 tie intact.
With two outs in the bottom half, the Reds would load the bases, but Lucas couldn’t bring anybody in, as he would ground out to third.
A sharp grounder from Bennett bounced off Sosa’s glove into left to start the fifth, followed by a walk to Matt House. Luke Keister would ground into a fielder’s choice at second, but would reach second on a wild throw from Logan Phelps at second, which allowed Bennett to score. Keister would move to third on a wild pitch, but was thrown out trying to take home on a second wild pitch, ending the inning with a 4-3 lead.
Cornwell led off the bottom half with a double to right. Sherfey bunted to the catcher Bennett, but the throw to first hit him in the back, allowing Sherfey to reach second and Cornwell to score the tying run. Hunter Miller would drive him in with a ground rule double to right to give the Reds their first lead of the game at 5-4.
A walk to Hovatter, a single from Delavergne, and a safe bunt from Ritter loaded the bases for a grand slam from Bucher. Bennett would add a solo shot to center, pushing the lead to 9-5.
With two outs and two on in the bottom half, Sherfey would hit a weak grounder in front of Bennett that looked to be the third out. However, the throw to first was too high, allowing both Shifflett and Cornwell to score, and Sherfey to reach second. Messick came in to strike out Miller to keep the score 9-7 Shockers.
Delavergne led off the seventh with a solo shot to left. Bucher would single and Estep would walk. After a double steal, Bennett would drive in Bucher with a sacrifice fly, pushing the deficit back to four at 11-7.
Tharp doubled to left in the bottom of the eighth, and reached third on a sacrifice fly from Lucas. With Cornwell batting, Tharp stole home after strike one to cut the lead to 11-8.
House drove in Burcher in the ninth with an RBI single, and after a rundown throw got away, Estep would score as well, making way for House to go to third. Luke Keister plated him with a single in what proved to be the game-winner, giving the Shockers a 14-8 advantage.
Sherfey hit a solo shot to lead off the bottom of the ninth for Bridgewater. Sosa would single, Chris’s Huffman would reach on an error, and Phelps walked to load the bases. Shifflett would ground into a fielder’s choice at second, but the throw to first was wild, allowing two runs to score and Shifflett to reach second. Tharp would single to left to cut the lead to two, and then steal second. Lucas’s fly ball to left was dropped by House, allowing Tharp to come home and put the winning run at the plate. Cornwell walked, and stole second to put two runners in scoring position for Sherfey. With a 1-1 count, a grounder to Hovatter’s left looked like it was a Reds walkoff, but a diving stop and throw to first allowed the Shockers to escape with the win.
Potts thought they had lost when he saw the ball off the bat.
“I thought off the bat there at the end, Grey’s ball’s getting through,” Potts said. “I said ‘This game’s over, we lost,’ and I see Brayden dive out of nowhere, and kind of avenge the error he made earlier in the inning, and oh… it’s huge.”
The Shockers stranded eleven, and four errors made way for seven unearned runs. The Reds left ten runners on, and two errors accounted for three unearned runs.
Bucher led the Shockers, going 3-6 with five RBIs and three runs scored. Bennett went 4-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored. Estep went 0-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Ritter went 3-6 with an RBI and a run scored. Delavergne was 2-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Pastel went 3-5 with a run scored. The Shockers collected seventeen hits.
Tharp went 3-3 with an RBI and three runs scored. Sherfey went 2-6 with an RBI and two runs scored. Shifflet went 1-3 with an RBI and four runs scored. Lucas was 1-6 with an RBI. Cornwell was 1-2 with two runs. The Reds had twelve hits.
The Shockers will try to clinch a spot in the RCBL Finals tomorrow when they host the Reds at 7:30 pm at Rebel Park. To beat the eighteen-time champs, Potts says the Shockers will need to clean up defensively.
“Bridgewater’s been the cream of the crop in this league… as long as I’ve been here. They’ve always been competing for championships, so they’re gonna come ready to play,” Potts said. “The defense has to get better, or else we’re gonna do ourselves some harm.”
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