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One baseball game was a pitcher?s paradise. The other was a batter?s bonanza. Both ended in defeat for county teams.
Liberty hosted, and was topped, 1-0 by Amherst while Staunton River visited, and was beaten, by Heritage 9-8.
The Minutemen and the Eagles have the rest of the year to reflect on the games, as the losses eliminated them from further tournament play. Top-seeded Jefferson Forest is the only local team still in the running.
In the Liberty game, Amherst?s Ashton Paige led off with a blast against Liberty starter Jake Tanner. The homerun represented the last run that the sophomore hurler would give up for the evening. Going the distance, Tanner scattered 7 hits while striking out 6 Lancers.
Amherst?s Jacob Sale ensured that the Lancers would advance. The wily pitcher?s curve baffled the Minutemen, as he registered 10 strikeouts. Sale gave up a meager 4 hits over his seven innings.
Sale is not an overpowering pitcher, but he is a smart one. There will be many in the rest of the Seminole happy to see him graduate.
While Tanner?s mates didn?t give him a lot of help from the plate, they certainly were supportive in the field.
Big and strong, the Amherst players can hit and they can hit it hard. Defensive gems were turned in during nearly every inning. For example, in the top of the seventh, Amherst had runners on first and second. The next Lancer batter nailed a shot that to left center. Centerfielder Kody Meadows made the grab on a full sprint, catching the ball over his left shoulder and surely saving two runs.
Liberty?s best chance came in the bottom of the seventh. With Eric Lafon and Clay Carimi on base and nobody out, the Liberty faithful started making plans for the trip to Heritage and the District semifinals.
However, Sale came through for the Lancers, coaxing a pop up, a line out and a groundout, in order, to end the game.
Lafon and Carimi were still on second and first when their season ended.
Eagles: close, but no cigar
Staunton River nearly pulled off the upset of the tournament but, in the end, fell to Heritage 9-8.
The Pioneers faced Eagle ace Michael Williams for the first time this season and the junior hurler confounded them through the first four innings.
Williams?s pitch count, well in excess of 100, prompted Head Coach Brian Divers to pull the lefty who was holding an 8-1 lead.
Williams was certainly helped out by significant offensive production, including a two-run homer by powerful first baseman Josh LaPradd.
However, once Williams departed, the Pioneers pounced. Meanwhile, Heritage?s Gregg Chewning figured out how to silence the Staunton River bats, as the Eagles went scoreless over the last three innings of the game.
Jefferson Forest remains the sole Bedford County team in the playoff mix. They will get their next shot, against Amherst, tonight (Wednesday, 5:00 p.m.) in a game to be played at Heritage.
Still feeling the sting of the sudden end to their seasons, Liberty and Staunton River can start to think about next year. While both teams will lose significant, key players to graduation, both have a good amount of their ballplayers coming back.
Both should face a challenge filling holes in the infield, while pitching will be less of a concern. Liberty?s Ethan Tanner and River?s Joey West have been two of the more solid shortstops in the area. Minuteman Anthony Cottrell and Eagle Josh LaPradd have been steady and powerful in manning first base for their teams.
Those players will be missed but, fear not, there will be others to take their places.