It just sounded different.
Bottom of the 7th inning, two outs, bases loaded, Tom Sox desperately clinging to a 5-4 lead while hoping to send the series to a 3rd game. Adan Fernandez at bat. Fernandez took the first Antonio Menendez offering and smoked it out towards right center field, where the ball disappeared into a tree well beyond the outfield fence. With that one loud smack of the bat, the Rebels were 2018 Valley League champions.
Charlottesville had fought back from a 2-0 deficit with a run in the 3rd when Zac Ching slid around the tag at the plate to score on an error, and tied the game when Nickolas Oar scampered home on a wild pitch. The big blow was later in that same inning, when third baseman Nick Bellafronto drove a three-run home run over the left center field fence.
The Rebels got one back with what appeared to be a safety squeeze from Chase Sudduth scored Kobe Lopez, and another run in the 6th when Cris DeGuzman singled home Andrew Kasiski, but Tom Sox center fielder Jack Morris cut down Austin Bogart at the plate, and Menendez came in to stop the threat.
And then Fernandez hit the slam. “I was just trying to help my team out somehow. I just wanted to make them happy, after all we’ve been through, the rain and everything,” Fernandez said after the game, with a huge grin.
But if Adan Fernandez was the hitter of the game, Peyton Millirons was the pitcher. Peyton entered the game in the 6th inning with the Rebels down 5-3, and proceeded to strike out an astonishing 8 out the 11 batters he faced. “Really, I just wanted to go home,” Millirons said. “I knew if we could get a lead or tie it up I could hand it to the bullpen and we could take it from there. I just wanted to throw strikes and make them hit it, but obviously they didn’t, so I got a little lucky.” (Didn’t look like luck from where I was sitting.)
The Rebel bullpen, in relief of starter Nick Cottone, overall did an amazing job. Matthew Mercer, Millirons, and closer Trevin Eubanks collectively struck out 12 batters in 5 2/3 total innings.
So the New Market Rebels won their first Valley League title since the 2002 season- 16 seasons ago. Coach Zac Cole said, “It’ll sink in more tomorrow as I’m driving home. It’s an accumulation of a lot of manhours- not just from myself, but from our staff, and the people in New Market, and our players. These guys invested a lot for this to happen… we challenged them off the field while they were here to get better, and I’m just proud that they bought in…. but right now it’s just goosebumps.”
Your 2018 Valley League Champions- the New Market Rebels!