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Cav baseballers in hunt for top spot--county roundup

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By Mike Forster

Jefferson Forest continued with its season-long formula of using young arms along with graybeard fielders and hitters to top Liberty by the score of 9-2 last Friday night.

With the win, the Cavs kept pace with Heritage for the coveted regular season crown. Along with the title comes a first-round bye in the District tournament and an automatic bid to the Region III playoffs.

Unlike most games this year, where the Cavs are spotting their opponents a couple of runs at the start, Forest came out red-hot against the Minutemen. In the opening stanza, the Cavs jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first inning and coasted from there.

Bryan Sanderson started things off when the leadoff batter belted a home run to left field. ?That was the farthest I?ve seen him hit it in his life,? stated Cav Head Coach Ryan Gilleland.

Sanderson?s tater was followed by two hit batsmen and a base on balls. Matt Wallman stroked an RBI single before Ragan Rudisill knocked in a pair with a single. ?(Rudisill) is picking it up for us,? said Gilleland. ?He?s getting big hits for us.?

The 7-3 Cavs opened with sophomore Erik Heiligenstadt, who was spelled by Hunter Gordon. Zack Folger came in to close out the last inning, striking out the side.

?They beat us in the first inning,? said Liberty Head Coach Stewart Grant. ?You can?t give a team like JF free baserunners.?

Grant took the defeat in pragmatic fashion. ?We?re still confident; we?re playing well,? said Grant. The numbers back up his statement. While many expected the Minutemen to bring up the rear of the Seminole, the 5-6 Liberty squad can wind up anywhere from fourth through sixth place. The team?s final game, against Brookville, was played as a reschedule on Tuesday evening, after press time.

Forest will wrap up its regular season with games against Staunton River (Wednesday) and Amherst (Friday).

In the event that Heritage and Jefferson Forest tie for the regular season title, the first tie-breaker is via head-to-head competition with each other. In that category, the two teams split. The next tie-breaker is head-to-head competition with the District?s third place team, fourth place team, and so on.

Additionally, a tie would give both teams automatic bids to Regional play.

Playoff palaver

Going into Tuesday?s games, here?s how things stand. Heritage (8-3), has one game left with Rustburg (third at 6-5). Forest (7-3) has games with Staunton River and Amherst (Friday).

Liberty sits in fourth at 5-6. Depending on how it did against Brookville (4-6) on Tuesday night, the Minutemen could finish as high as tied for third (with Rustburg), or as low as sixth. In a tie scenario with Rustburg, Liberty would win, based on tie-breakers.

Amherst and Brookville each are at 4-6. Staunton River, at 3-8 only has the game with Jefferson Forest remaining. Even if the Eagles were to win that Wednesday night game, they are assured of having to hit the road for the District tournament. The best case scenario has the Eagles finishing tied for sixth with the loser of the Amherst-Brookville game.

In a nutshell, come Monday, Forest will either be on a bye, or at home against Staunton River. Liberty will most likely be at home against the Amherst-Brookville winner. However, as this is Seminole baseball, those most likely scenarios are subject to being upended.

Staunton River is a case in point. With Michael Williams on the mound, the Eagles can?t be counted out of any game. Daniel Kihm gave a fine mound performance in the loss against Rustburg (6 IP, 3 runs). The team has rallied behind the hot bats of Joey West and David Berger. ?We just need to put it together more than one time a game,? said Coach Neal Mustard. ?If we can have more than one big inning a game, watch out.?

This season has proven that the adage, ?on any given evening, any team can beat any other? is absolutely applicable. There is not one conceivable matchup in which any team is a lock for a win. Thus, the incentive for the Cavs to win the regular season title and get that automatic bid to the Regionals is that much more crucial.