For every baseball team that relies on pitching and defense to find its way to victory, once in a while, it’s welcome to receive a power surge.
Andrew Sergent delivered the knockout punch, a long home run to left center field that careened off the light pole, breaking a 4-4 tie in the eighth inning to give Mechanicsville Post 175 a 5-4 victory Sunday at Hermitage High School over West End Post 361, asserting them back alone in first place in American Legion District 11 baseball with less than a week in the regular season.
“It’s good to be back on the winning side of things, that’s for sure,” Post 175 head coach Bobby White said, referring to an 8-6, 11-inning win Saturday in Colonial Heights over the Post 284 Pirates on top of Sunday’s win to return Post 175 atop the standings at 8-2.“We’re gearing up, with four games left in the regular season, then the tournament.”
Neither weekend win was easy. Post 175 used pitching by committee in the extra inning win Saturday, then handed the ball to Taylor Crowe Sunday. The first batter he faced, Craig McLane, singled but reached third when left fielder Anthony Zona misplayed the ball, letting it get behind him. Will Black’s sacrifice fly made it 1-0 Post 361 after one.
McLane scored again in the third. After walking to lead off the inning, he raced home when Drew Barker doubled into the left field corner. After three innings, Crowe had three walks and had allowed two runs. But the developing story was how Post 361 failed to bring runners across: two in the second, three in the third. It would get worse from there.
Jakob Pridemore got 175’s first hit in the fourth, a single to left, starting a rally. Josh Shepherd singled, Trevor Denton reached on an infield single to load the bases, then Cody Thompson drew a walk from 361 starter Patrick Hall to plate Pridemore. Zona blooped a single to right scoring Shepherd, but Eric Crain’s throw to Black at the plate cut down Denton with what would have been the go-ahead run. But the game was tied 2-2 midway through the fourth.
Post 361 retook the lead in the bottom of the inning on three straight singles, the last one scoring Beano Shealy. They left the other two runners on base. The door was still open.
Christian Buckler led off the fifth with a double to left. After being sacrificed to third on a Brady Didlake bunt, Buckler came home when Haiden Lamb knocked a single to left-center. After Lamb was caught trying to steal second, Mechanicsville took advantage of poor shortstop play to take its first lead. Pridemore, who had an infield single to short, advanced to second when Shepherd grounded to short, Drew Barker getting the ball but momentarily freezing, not sure where to throw the ball.
A balk by Hall advanced the runners 90 feet, then Trevor Denton grounded to Barker, who misplayed the ball allowing Pridemore to score. It was 4-3 Mechanicsville.
But not for long. Drew Scott reached base on an infield single to short to start the 361 fifth inning, reaching second when Shepherd’s throw to first was wild. A wild pitch by Crowe sent Scott to third, who easily scored on Hall’s single to right to make it 4-4.
It stayed that way until Sergent reached the plate with one out in the eighth. He launched a pitch deep into the blue afternoon sky for the solo shot that became the game-winner. Reliever Cody Thompson sent 361 down in order in the eighth, but allowed a one-out single to Scott in the ninth, sending White to the mound to bring in Denton, the team’s closer.
“We told Cody going into the ninth, it’s yours if you can get them in order, but if anyone gets on base, we’re going to Trevor,” White explained. “He’s quick to the plate so it would make it harder if they tried to send a runner on us, that was the thought.”
Denton walked his first batter, Kyle Battle, then Hall grounded to short, but the throw to Buckler at second for the force out was wide, forcing Buckler’s foot off the bag. Suddenly, the bases were loaded with only one out in a one-run game.
Denton settled down and struck out both Kyle Saltzberg and Shealy to end the game and seal the win. The three runners left on base in the ninth gave Post 361 a total of 14 runners stranded for the contest.
Though Sergent’s long ball broke the tie, White focused on his bread and butter talking after the game.
“I thought Taylor (Crowe) did a good job keeping them off-balance even though he really didn’t have his changeup today. He did a good job locating the fastball, getting them out front.”
Mechanicsville pounded Powhatan Post 201 23-2 Tuesday night to stay a game ahead in first with three games left. Their regular season finale is Saturday at Atlee against county rival Ashland Post 206, who are currently 1-11.