Eagle baseball soaring

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Top Byrd in battle of 24

By Mike Forster


They don't quit.

With Staunton River ahead, 3-1, in the bottom of the seventh, William Byrd's Cody Carawan led off the inning.

The Terrier first baseman drilled a hard grounder, which bounced off the chest of Golden Eagle second baseman Luke Davis.  

In a split second, the crowd could sense the wheels falling off the River wagon.  One error leading to another, enabling Byrd to storm back, the Eagles snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Not this bunch.

In a flash, Davis recovered pegging the throw to David Thomas at first a fraction of a second before Carawan arrived.  River pitcher Collin Watkins then coaxed the next two Terrier batsmen into less dramatic outs to close out what he'd started.

That half inning played out like the rest of the game.  Seemingly everyone contributed at seemingly the most opportune times.

"I thought we played very well defensively," said River Head Coach Brian Divers.  "We made some plays late in the ball game that took some air out of (Byrd's) sail."

For every Eagle stumble, there were two teammates to carry the load.

The team carries the look of a winner.  The pride in performance and in each other is almost palpable.

That pride translated into a huge fourth inning for the Eagles.  Down 1-0 (on an unearned run), Scott Ellis got on board via a flubbed infield shot with one out.  By the way, when Ellis is on the base paths, one can't afford a bobble, let alone a flub.  

After Watkins earned a walk, Ellis stole third.

That sent designated hitter Travis Crouch to the plate.  He responded by ripping a double down the right field line to make it 1-1.  His shot also put Watkins on third.

"That got us going," said Divers, of the hit.

Cody Shell then made the kind of play that doesn't make scorebooks.  With Watkins charging on the suicide squeeze, Shell squared off to bunt.  But Byrd pitcher Troy Beckner's offering was high:  as in above Shell's head.  As Terrier catcher Dustin Boothe leaped for the ball, Watkins seemed doomed.

Shell, however, leaped to get a piece of the ball, denying Boothe the opportunity to grab it and nail Watkins.

While Shell subsequently popped out, the Eagles maintained runners on second and third.

That paved the way for David Thomas.  The catcher mauled a single up the middle to score Watkins and Crouch.

Meanwhile, Watkins was pitching with aplomb.  The righty with the big curve looked as though he could throw a schnitzel past a  German shepherd.

His first eight pitches of the night were all strikes, before he started mixing it up a bit.

He yielded not a single earned run while giving up a mere four hits.  He also walked a pair and plunked two batters, showing he's not afraid to stake out his share of the plate.

Watkins also struck out three.  That was all the K's he'd need, however, as the defense behind him was superb.

An example of that defense came in the top of the sixth inning.  With Byrd's Boothe on first (courtesy of Watkins staking out his share of the plate), the dangerous Tanner Willis stepped up to take his swings.

One of those appeared to be a sure hit.  But Eagle shortstop Jakob Divers snared the ball over his opposite shoulder and somehow made the turn to hit Davis at second.  Davis, in turn, somehow got the ball off in time for the DP.  'Twas a thing of beauty.

The very next at bat, third baseman Jordan Mattox nabbed a sharply-hit grounder to douse the inning.

But of all the acrobatic plays, timely hitting and precision pitching, there was one thing that stood out the most:  The Eagle bench's spirit.

The mood on the bench is electric, bordering on manic.  The players seem to work each other into a frenzy that leaves the fence that surrounds the dugout shaking, as though withstanding an earthquake.

It is not lost on Divers.  "Our bench has been very important," he noted.  "They keep the morale up throughout the game.  That is where our energy comes from."

And the guys on the field obviously draw from that energy.  That was readily obvious during the win over Byrd.

If you want to catch a relaxing brand of baseball, there are plenty of options available.

But not with this Staunton River bunch.