On my way out of Casey Field this evening, I heard a woman exclaim, “This is the rain’s fault!”
Well, I suppose that’s true.
Because of the heavy storms that have rocked the Valley over the past week, the usual best-of-three South Division finals were shortened to just one game- tonight, Charlottesville at Covington.
After waiting for so long, the Charlottesville Tom Sox have earned their second straight trip to the finals with a hard-fought 7-6 victory over the Jacks.
In a game that featured quite a bit of offense, the teams were tied at 2 after 4 innings thanks to 4 solo home runs. The Tom Sox got theirs from Zac Ching (1st inning) and Alex Mardinay (3rd), and the Jacks from Noah Bridges (1st) and Bennett Hostetler (4th). Hostetler’s was gone off the bat; we had a good old-fashioned “admire your shot” from Bennett at home plate. He deserved it.
The Sox scored 3 times in the 5th, thanks to another home run by Mardinay, a 2-run shot, and a Patrick McColl single to bring home Ching, who had doubled. The Jacks, however, scored twice in their half inning on a JC Santos solo home run (so many solo shots tonight!) and an RBI double by Bridges.
After a clean 6th inning (Tom Sox reliever Evan Justice struck out the side) from both clubs, the Sox scored twice more in the 7th, taking a 7-4 lead. Oddly, both runs scored on wild pitches, although the home crowd was quite upset at the safe call when McColl slid in. From ATVL’s vantage point, however, it was pretty obvious that the pitcher missed the tag. (By the way, the fans were mostly supportive of the home team tonight, but at one point late in the game, Charlottesville’s Mardinay was up to bat, and a fan heckled him, saying that he was having a “terrible night.” At that point, Mardinay had 2 home runs and a single, along with a diving catch (explained below). Alex was actually the player of the game, and certainly did not have a terrible night. Maybe that particular fan needed to keep score? Or maybe…. just…. hush.)
The Jacks, down to 9 position players for this game, still refused to go away. Santos led off the 7th with a single, Connor Hood walked, and Christopher Villa hit a slow roller between the mound and 1st base. Sox 1st baseman Brett Centracchio barehanded it (it had stopped rolling in the way-too-high infield grass), but threw wide of covering pitcher Jake Hershman. Santos scored, Hood went to third, and the tying run, Villa, went to second.
So with the tying runs in scoring position, Hershman struck out Kent Rooklin, and in the play of the game, got a diving catch by center fielder Mardinay on a Bridges line drive. One run still scored, but Villa was eventually stranded on base.
Hershman made quick work of the 8th inning, and Bradley Hanner came in to close. Firing fastballs at 90 mph, Hanner slammed the door on the Lumberjacks’ season with a 1-2-3 9th.
Charlottesville starter Kirby McMullen received the win, and Covington reliever Cameron Crone got the loss. The Tom Sox were led at the plate by Mardinay, who went 3-5, with the aforementioned 2 home runs and single, and Ching, who also went 3-5, with a double and home run.
The Tom Sox will immediately (weather permitting) host game one of the league finals tomorrow evening against the New Market Rebels, who have been waiting for some time to play these games. Remember that if you can’t come out to watch, you can still watch the games on Facebook live!