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Talk about putting it together at the right time.
Big Island Post 217 finally had all of its parts in one place. “We’re playing pretty well as a team,” said Manager Kelley Russell. “We have a lot of good leadership and the chemistry is good.”
As such, the Islanders went on a tear, one that found them playing for the district championship.
It was a delayed tear, mind you. At one point, it didn’t seem likely that the team would advance beyond the weekend.
In its opening game, fifth-seeded Big Island fell to number four Martinsville, 4-1.
A stellar pitching performance by starter Kyle Goddard went for naught in that one, as the Islanders’ bats fell silent for the most part.
That loss put Big Island into the losers’ bracket.
Most teams, after an opening round loss, are disheartened enough that the end comes quickly. In Big Island’s case, however, the team just didn’t seem to want to pack it in.
The Islanders took it to ‘em, winning four straight games over Salem, Botetourt, Danville and Lynchburg.
In a tournament with this many games in it, you have to have depth and you have to have all of that depth contributing.
That’s exactly what Russell got from his charges. He also got players stepping up to go above and beyond the call.
Take Goddard, for example. In a move that hearkens back to the early days of baseball, Goddard started one game and relieved in a second game on the very same day.
“He wanted the ball in the second game,” said Russell. “I wasn’t sure he had enough. But he did. He’s a tough one.”
Another who has helped carry the load has been second baseman Bryan Sanderson.
Against Salem, the Sand Man smacked a grand slam, while going four-for-four and driving home eight runs in the 13-3 win.
Not only are those gaudy numbers, they helped close the game down in seven innings via the mercy rule. That saved two innings of some pitcher’s arm.
For the tournament, by the way, Sanderson has hit three home runs.
Against Botetourt, Sanderson joined with Jake Tanner and Brett Dietrich in delivering solo home runs.
The big game of the tourney, so far, was the 7-6 win by the Islanders over arch-nemesis Lynchburg.
The ‘Burgers had taken Post 217 on three occasions this season. Each time, Big Island fell by a single run.
This time, it was Big Island that would prevail, 7-6. “It’s kind of nice that we beat them when it mattered,” said Russell.
Indeed, the win knocked Lynchburg out of the tourney and advanced the dreams of the Islanders.
Hard-throwing lefty Trevor Johnston gave Russell six solid innings, with Goddard relieving. Cody Arthur and Bryan Sanderson each drove in a pair in leading the offensive charge.
That gave Big Island the dubious honor of playing two games against Roanoke, both on Tuesday, for the title.
Vinton falls early
It was a quick tournament for Vinton Post 80, which is made up of Staunton River and William Byrd players.
The Vintonians couldn’t hang on to a 3-1 early lead, falling to Danville, 6-5 in the opener. Cody Pruett threw 7.1 strong innings, but it wasn’t enough against the #3 Dans. “We let it get away from us,” said Vinton Manager Jimmy Love. That loss took the wind out of us.”
In the consolation, they fell 13-3 to New River. Mitchell Hullett’s bomb over the sign at Kiwanis field was the highlight for Vinton in that one.