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End of the line for Islanders

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Post 217 knocked from tourney play

By Mike Forster

 

Martin and Dan conspired against them.

That is, Martinsville provided the ball team.  Danville provided the venues.

And Big Island's Post 217 American Legion team now finds itself with time on its collective hands.

The Islanders made it close.  But, in the end, they didn't have the ponies to pull off a district crown.  They lost their opener in heartbreaking fashion, came back to dominate game two, then ran out of gas in game three.

Both losses came at the hands of Martinsville.  The win came over Lynchburg, picked by many to repeat as district champs.  Instead, the Islanders ran the Burgers from the playoff picture.

In Friday's opener, Big Island seemed to have things well in hand.  Starting pitcher Greg Brownson looked mighty on the mound, mowing down Martinsville's muscular menaces.

Brownson's efforts went for naught, however.  Martinsville rallied from a 5-3 deficit, scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth to knot the affair.

After the Islanders went down 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth, the martinis struck.  Dillon Crowder walloped a double past a diving Trevor Cheek, at third.  Crowder stole third as teammate Sam Stanbaugh whiffed.  

Designated hitter Bradley Tickle worked the count to 2-2 before hitting a dribbler toward first base.  

Quintin Palmer, playing first, grabbed the ball, making an off-balance throw toward relief pitcher Tyler Bergin.  The bang-bang play was too fast in developing.  The ball lay on the turf along with the Islanders' hopes of hitting the winners' bracket.

 

Aftermath

Big Island headed to Market Garden Field for Saturday's losers' bracket game against Lynchburg.

There, they played as anything but losers, dominating the Burgers, 4-1 behind the stellar pitching of Jason Stafford.

The reedy righty went the distance, allowing four hits and a walk while striking out seven.

Most impressive was his taking care of the side in the top of the ninth to seal the win.  "He was lights out," said Islanders manager Kelley Russell.  "They didn't have a clue."

The Islanders' luck didn't hold, alas, in a rematch with M'ville.  Moving back to Dan Daniels Park, the Martinis put up a five-spot in the sixth inning to break a 6-6 tie.

Matt Banks came in to shut things down the last two innings, but the damage was done.  Martinsville advance to play Danville for the title, while the Islanders packed up.

"I'm proud of what we accomplished," said Russell, noting his team finished 9-8, overall.  "We proved we could play with anyone in the league."

 

Tough guy

There's no formal award for being the toughest guy on the team, but if there were, we think Zach Coleman would be in the running for it.

Two days before the playoff series started, Coleman was taken to the hospital, along with five other firefighters.

Coleman, a member of the Forest Volunteer Fire Department, was injured when the truck in which he was riding rolled over (see page 12A for details).

But Coleman was there for his baseball pals, shaking off any lingering effects.  "Zach was still hurting from the wreck," noted Russell.  "We got seven innings out of him (on Friday, in right field) and he didn't want to come out of the game."

Coleman also played the full nine innings on Saturday and on Sunday, when he notched four hits.  "That's the kind of player we need," said Russell.

Correction, Coach.  That's the kind of player ANY team needs.

Speaking of which, Coach Russell is already in a recruiting mode for next summer's team.

"I think we have a good nucleus coming back," said Russell.

Still, there's always room for more talent.  If interested (and born after 1995), give the coach a call at 434-665-8273.