Baseball is humbling. Within a five-day period, you can produce a masterpiece against your toughest foe, turn around, and look subpar against inferior competition.
Add delays, rainouts and schedule changes, and it could be said a very tired Mechanicsville Post 175 team was just thankful to call the 2013 regular season done Tuesday night after, in a span of two hours, both clinching the District 11 title and seeing their 17-game winning streak come to a disappointing end.
Thursday night, Post 175 produced their best, most dominant performance of 2013, routing the closest team to them in the standings, West End Post 361, 13-3 in seven innings at Deep Run High School. Michael Thomas struck out 11, going the distance and overcoming some wildness (two of his strikeout victims reached base on third strike wild pitches).
Dalton Ruch opened the game with a solo home run, then fell behind 2-1 in the fourth on a heads-up play on the bases by John Lloyd, scoring from second base on a Thomas wild pitch when catcher Mitch Keeler was slow to retrieve the ball from the backstop, giving Lloyd time to surprise the 175 defense and motor home.
Mechanicsville had left five runners on base the first four innings, and falling behind seemed
to push the right button. Post 175 scored three times in the fifth to take the lead for good at 4-2 on five singles and a walk. Thomas helped his own cause an inning later with a two-run homer to right.
The seventh inning proved to be a Post 175 steamroller, scoring seven runs off three Post 361 pitchers. Five more singles, two hit batsmen, a walk and Bryant Lowry’s bases-clearing double gave them a 10-run lead. Thomas struck out Chad Shaw and Cole Hyman to end the game, a stunning performance that left Post 361 shaking their heads in disappointment and Post 175 shaking theirs in astonishment.
Then the rains returned.
Doubleheaders scheduled for Friday and Saturday were called off, reset for Monday and Tuesday. An easy win Sunday over South Richmond Post 137, 6-1, put the win streak at 14. Monday saw Lakeside Post 125 come to Atlee for their make-up doubleheader, and they were easy prey, losing to Post 175 11-1 and 14-3.
The streak was 16, just one win needed over lowly Colonial Heights Post 284B Tuesday at home to officially clinch the district crown. In their only meeting of the season, on opening night, Post 175 prevailed 19-3. The small crowd gathered waited for the inevitable. It almost didn’t happen.
Post 175 saw three baserunners picked off in various circumstances in innings two and three. Colonial Heights starter William Peterson’s off-speed pitching kept inducing pop-ups, and Mechanicsville couldn’t get on track offensively. Finally, in the bottom of the fourth, Ruch led off with a double, and Patrick Holler followed with another double, scoring Ruch for a 1-0 lead.
That’s when a lightning display interrupted the game for over 20 minutes. The teams waited out the delay, but upon their return, 175 stranded two runners to end the fourth. Colonial Heights loaded the bases on starter Cody Thompson in the fifth, but failed to score.
In the top of the sixth, Carter Cox singled to right. The ball got behind Cody Powers, and Cox raced to third. Two batters later, Peterson doubled to bring in Cox and a stunned Mechanicsville crowd realized the game was tied with an inning to go, and, with huge storm clouds to the north and south of the stadium merging together literally over the field, no guarantee the night would be completed.
Frantic fans screamed for Post 175 to hurry to bat in the sixth. Peterson took full advantage of the lack of a game clock in baseball by taking his sweet time between pitches, possibly hoping the morphing storm would buy his team another delay.
Thomas entered the game as a pinch-hitter and led off the sixth with a double. Lowry singled to put runners at the corners. Powers grounded out to short, allowing Lowry to advance to second. Luke Bolka entered as a pinch-hitter and launched a fly ball to deep left-center, scoring Thomas from third. The Post 175 faithful breathed a sigh of relief, taking a slim 2-1 lead.
Sean King took over to get the save, retiring 284B in order in the seventh as the light show gathered just north of the diamond. Post 175 had won its 17th straight game, clinched the District 11 title, and didn’t celebrate. There was a storm to watch and a second game of no importance to try to officially play.
Putting a strange bookend on the regular season, Post 175 lost 3-2 to the same team they defeated 19-3 on opening night. With the title clinched, maybe the stress and strain of playing so many games in the past two weeks, enduring so many delays and postponements, finally caught up with Mechanicsville. The bottom line is, though they officially finished the regular season with a thud, their 17-game winning streak over, Post 175 can now finally stop worrying about make-up games and the seven-day forecast, regroup, and focus on the upcoming District 11 Tournament, beginning Thursday.
As the top seed, with Midlothian Post 186 forfeiting their position in the tournament, Post 175 receives an opening round bye and will face either the fourth or fifth seed Friday at 7 p.m. at Atlee. Their second game will be Saturday evening, also at Atlee. If they advance to the double elimination championship round, it will take place beginning Sunday at L.C. Bird High School in Chester.
So, in the end, the loss that broke Post 175’s winning streak could end up as a blessing in disguise. For the best thing that could happen right now to head coach Eddie Gates and his championship team is a good 48 hours of rest and refocusing. If successful in doing that, the Post 175 that steamrolled Post 361 last week will return. That’s bad news for the rest of District 11.