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Big win for Big Islanders

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Post 217 tops Vinton Post 80 to halt slide

By Mike Forster

 

One is a Jefferson Forest guy.

The other is an LCA fellow.

One is built like a linebacker.

The other looks more like a safety.

Together, they helped lead Big Island Post 217 to a timely win over Vinton Post 80.

Cameron Byrd and Tyler Bergin combined to pitch all nine innings in effective fashion to give the Islanders the 7-3 win.  They also posted four RBIs between them.

The win was huge for the team (now 4-4), coming in the wake of a pair of mercy-rule losses at the  hands of Lynchburg and Danville.

"Now that's more Big Island-style," enthused Head Coach Kelley Russell after the game.  "The boys played very well.  I'm very pleased."

Russell nearly missed the chance to be so pleased.  Because of a scheduling conflict, the game was moved from Staunton River (Vinton's home field) to JF Middle.  It was also shifted from 4 to 7 p.m., and rains threatened.

Once things got going, so did the Islanders.  Starting pitcher Byrd mistreated the Vinton order the first time through:  nine up, nine down.

Meanwhile, he and his teammates got busy in the bottom of the first.  Zach Coleman and Cal Hodgert stroked singles.  Byrd got aboard via a base on balls.

That set up Bergin, whose single plated a pair.  Byrd scooted home on Mitchell Doss's sacrifice fly to open up a 3-0 lead.

Hodgert would drive in Trevor Cheek and Coleman (who had three runs for the night) with a fourth-inning double.  

Vinton, meanwhile, picked up a run from Mitchell Hullett in the fourth.  In the seventh, trailing 5-1, back-to-back doubles by Collin Hill and Scotty Spradlin pulled the Vintners within two, at 5-3.

But Byrd coaxed the next three batters into easy grounders and a pop-up to end the danger.

Almost immediately, his team (including himself) came to his aid.  Coleman beat out an infield hit and wound up at second base on an overthrow.    The burly Byrd then muscled a Spradlin offering to center for a run-scoring double.

Big Island's last run came in the eighth, when Matt Bates's sacrifice fly brought home catcher Nate Williamson for the Islanders' seventh run of the game.

Meanwhile, Russell sent Bergin to the mound to start the seventh.  The LCA hurler had been roughed up in his last start, at Danville.  "He came to me and told me, 'Coach, I can get the save'," said Russell.

The coach showed faith in the pitcher who, in turn, rewarded that faith by blanking Vinton over the final two innings, striking out three and allowing a single hit.

Interestingly, Byrd struck out zero while yielding but two earned runs.  Credit his crafty pitch placement and a stellar supporting cast for that statistical anomaly.

"You've gotta like Cameron Byrd," said Russell, noting the righty gave up zero walks.  "It's not about striking out people.  It's the team game."

Vinton now stands 3-3.  "We feel we'll be right there come tournament time," said assistant coach Nic Love.  

Noting that the team has four Staunton River grads on it (Mitch Hullett, Paul Williams, Patrick Love and Matt Daniels), Love added, "We always play [Big Island] hard.  These are county rivals."