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Rainouts, postponements, loss of practice time. College freshmen who haven’t seen live pitching in weeks, and high-schoolers reporting late due to winning a state championship.
That’s been life for Mechanicsville Post 175 baseball until finally hitting the diamond over the weekend, beginning with a 19-3 win over Colonial Heights 284P.
Fans quickly remembered the ease of how this team went unbeaten last season into the state tournament.
Then 2013 showed up.
First, West End Post 361 handed 175 their first regular season loss in two years Saturday, topping Mechanicsville 6-2. Monday night, it was back to Atlee to fight a lightning delay, and a resurgent South Richmond Post 137.
Post 175 took an early 2-0 lead, extended it to 6-3, but in the eighth, 137 struck for five runs as a costly infield error took what may have been an inning-ending double play. Post 137 escaped with the 8-6 win and, suddenly, 175 was 1-2.
“We need to get some playing time, not play a game then sit for three or four days,” lamented Post 175 head coach Eddie Gates. “We have to score some runs because these other teams are gonna score runs.”
Post 175 went to the bullpen after seven innings from Taylor Crowe. Cody Powers got one out, allowed an H.J. Ellis single, then, on a grounder from 137 third baseman Andrew Saunders to Dalton Ruch at short, the ball took a wicked angle, and Ruch was handcuffed. The next two batters, both pinch-hitters, had an RBI double and two-RBI single respectively, and South Richmond was on their way.
Gates reluctantly turned to pitcher Evan Swecker, the third 175 pitcher of the inning, to, as he labeled it, “stop the bleeding.” Swecker, his starting choice for Tuesday’s game against Midlothian Post 186, faced five batters, retiring four.
Swecker again toed the hill Tuesday against 186, and showed no sign of wear from his emergency relief appearance. Swecker scattered seven hits, allowed one run and struck out five over five innings, while Bryant Lowry provided all the offense Post 175 could dream of in just two at-bats as Mechanicsville won handily, 11-1 in seven innings.
With two down in the first, Michael Thomas walked, bringing up Lowry, who belted a home run over the right center field fence. The next batter, Luke Bolka, greeted 186 starter Julian Wolz by slamming a pitch over the left field wall for a 3-0 lead.
The lead ballooned to seven in the second, as Justin Bishop singled, advanced to second when Josh Shepherd was hit by a pitch. Ruch then
launched a liner into short center which was trapped by center fielder Eric Smigo allowing Bishop to score. Thomas walked to load the bases for Lowry, who ripped a double in the gap in left center. Shepherd, Ruch, and Thomas all flew around to score, and it was 7-0.
“We needed more production,” Gates said after the Midlothian win. “We score some runs, we’re gonna be fine, but we’re also gonna give up some more runs than we did last year.”
Gates is confident in his pitching staff, but it’s hard to expect them to perform at the level of last year’s staff that finished 25-2, winning 23 straight games at one point. In addition, Gates sees improved offensives throughout District 11.
Lowry was more than happy to appease Gates and his teammates at the plate.
“Monday night I got off to a rough start, and in my fourth at-bat, I just started relaxing and looked to see the ball better rather than worry about the swing, and after that, I started hitting the ball,” Lowry noted, saying his improved approach at the plate carried over to Tuesday, and thus produced the five RBI.
Post 175 scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh for the 10-run advantage at 11-1 and, by rule, the game was over. Post 186 fell to 3-5, while Post 175 evened their mark at 2-2.
Mechanicsville returns home Friday to face Colonial Heights Post 284P. They then play South Richmond Post 137 at L.C. Bird High Saturday at 7 p.m., travel to Powhatan Sunday to face Post 201 for a 4 p.m. game, then return home to Atlee for a doubleheader Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. against Lakeside Post 125.
So long as the rains hold off, Gates should have a really good grasp on his team after such a busy schedule, and, hopefully, everyone, including the players themselves will place the 2012 team behind them, and cheer on the 2013 edition to earn its own merits.