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Diamond title

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Cavs maul Rusties; nab seventh-straight crown

By Mike Forster

  "May you live in interesting times."

-Chinese blessing/curse

 

If nothing else, the Jefferson Forest baseball season has been an interesting time.

The Cavs put an exclamation point on those times by clinching the regular season championship in its last game of the Seminole slate.

Even that game, an 11-0 win over Rustburg, was not without its drama.

JF clung to a tenuous 2-0 lead through six innings in front of a Red Devil Senior Night crowd.

It wasn't until the Cavs exploded for nine runs in the top of the seventh that a seventh-straight regular season championship trophy became pretty much a certainty.

Even then, you never know.  "I've been doing this a long time," chuckled Cav Head Coach Jim Thacker.  "The only thing you can predict is that things are unpredictable."

The stabilizing influence in the Rustburg tilt seemed to be Jake Kliewer.

With Jeff Forest's Greg Brownson and Rustburg's Cody Ennis yielding little from the mound, Kliewer took it upon himself to open things up a bit.

In the top of the fifth, he broke open a scoreless tie, stroking a single to right-center field to drive home a pair of runs.

That lead held until the seventh.  That's when Cal Hodgert and Mark Heideman smacked a pair of singles to lead off the inning.

Kliewer then drove home Hodgert with a single to center.  Antonio Fazio followed that up with a double off the center field wall, making it 5-0.

That was it for Ennis, but not for the JF bats.

Michael Carter continued the festivities by driving home two more runs on a single.  Heideman, batting around the order, then applied the exclamation point, mauling a two-run homer.

With Kliewer shutting down the Red Devils in the bottom of the seventh, the masterpiece was complete.  The Cavs had locked down that coveted regular season title and all that comes with it:  the trophy, the bragging rights, the top seed in the district tourney and (probably most valuable of all) the top seeding from the Seminole in Region III play.

Coach Thacker acknowledged that this season's title run was no walk in the park.

"I think this year was a lot tougher than previous years," said the coach.  "Our starting pitching has not been on cruise control (as it has in previous years).  We've had to rely on our bullpen.  That's what has saved us this year."

While Kliewer and Christian Sanderson have been the standouts from out of the 'pen, even some starters have helped out with relief duty.

But the thing that most characterizes this JF team has been its senior leadership.  There are 11 seniors on this squad.  Every one of them seems to contribute in some way:  big and small, obviously and discreetly.

"They've come through in crucial situations," noted Thacker.