The final pitch by Evan Swecker, which struck out Glen Allen second baseman Trent Tutwiler, was the nail in the coffin during a 6-1 Atlee victory over the Jaguars that left the Raiders’ head coach ebullient with joy.
“This is just a big win for us,” coach Barry Burton said smiling. “Glen Allen is so tough, and for our guys to come out swinging, putting the ball in play…I’m so proud of the bottom of our order. They came through with some big two-out hits. It takes guts to get two-out hits.”
The Raiders launched into the Jaguars, scoring three in the top of the first thanks to only one hit, and multiple Glen Allen miscues. The hot start gave Swecker more than enough cushion to work with, as he pitched a gem, striking out 10 Jaguars and scattering three hits. Glen Allen’s lone run came in the bottom of the fourth. By that time, Atlee had built its lead to 6-0.
“One pitch [Swecker] made may have been the best pitch I’ve ever seen,” Burton noted. “It was one and two and the batter was looking for a curveball, and he fired a fastball inside perfectly. Whew!”
Luke Bolka and Kenner Berry each had two hits for the Raiders, who moved to 5-1 in the Capital District, 11-1 overall. The Jaguars fell to 2-2, 6-5.
Burton talked of a conversation the team had on the bus coming down I-295 to Glen Allen.
“I told them, ‘We are tied with these guys, and after tonight, one team is gonna be two games behind, and we don’t want to be that team,’” Burton recalled.
As it turned out, the night went better than Burton even dreamed.
Hanover, who entered Tuesday night unbeaten in the Capital by virtue of its 13-0 rout at Lee-Davis Monday night, was upset at Varina 6-4, as the Blue Devils, too, opened with three runs in their half of the first inning, scored three more in the fourth and held on for the surprising win to tie Glen Allen and Lee-Davis for third in the Capital District.
No one saw this coming. The Hawks scored in five of seven innings Monday night at Lee-Davis, as Chris Gilliam had a grand slam for Hanover, and N.C. State commit shortstop Andrew Knizner hit two out of the stadium. Trevor Denton, the winning pitcher, had three hits of his own, as Lee-Davis sent four hurlers to the mound trying to find a way to stop the bleeding.
But 24 hours later, Varina shocked the district, pulling the Hawks back to the pack at 5-1 in the Capital, 9-2 overall. Meanwhile, Lee-Davis got back on
track at Highland Springs, posting a 5-3 win to improve to 3-3 in district play, as Josh Lam homered for the Confederates.
All eyes will now affix upon Hanover High School Friday night as the Hawks try to put Varina behind them when they welcome Atlee for their rematch. Hanover is the only team to defeat the Raiders so far in 2013, 7-0 on April 16. It will likely be a rematch of pitching aces Derek Casey of Hanover and Luke Bolka of Atlee.
Not to be left out of baseball hierarchy, Patrick Henry has taken the Colonial District by surprise, currently tied for first with Douglas Freeman at 8-1 after a 12-0 defeat of Thomas Jefferson Tuesday afternoon. The Patriots are 8-3 overall, with their only two non-district games being losses to county rivals (Atlee and Lee-Davis).
“We hold the tiebreaker with Freeman, so we are in first in Colonial,” tweeted shortstop Chesdin Harrington. This is technically true, but can change in a heartbeat, beginning with the Patriots’ trip to J.R. Tucker held Wednesday evening in a game postponed earlier in the season by weather. The Tigers are just 2-4 in the Colonial, but, as Varina showed Hanover in the Capital Tuesday night, there are no automatics and plenty of possible pitfalls along the road to the 2013 playoffs.