By Owen Gotimer
Purcellville (May 27, 2015) – How often do you hear about a guy escaping a one-out, first and third, fifth inning jam on the hill before delivering a walk off single at the plate just two innings later? Whenever, LoCoSports writes it that way.
That was the story for Woodgrove High School senior Kaleb Bowman in the Conference 21 baseball championship against Sherando High School on Tuesday, May 26 in front of a home crowd in Purcellville.
A tie game heading into the bottom half of the seventh was broken open when Bowman delivered an RBI single to deep left center, plating senior Matt Gilson and sealing the conference title for the Wolverines with the 3-2 win over the Warriors.
“I’m happy for our whole team and coach,” Bowman said. “That’s our first conference championship. We’re on a roll right now, playing well. We have some momentum going into the region.”
In his first year at the helm of the Wolverines program, Rusty Smith convinced his team to hop on board and battle through a wide open Conference 21 to win the program’s first ever conference championship.
“I’m at a loss for words. You tell your seniors, I’m a new guy coming in, and I can’t promise you anything. I can only tell you how I’m going to be,” Smith said. “I can’t thank the seniors enough for buying in, doing what I ask them to do every day and bringing the younger guys with them.”
Starting five seniors and three juniors, the Wolverines carry an older roster, but when it mattered most it was the defense and timely hitting from two underclassmen that placed Woodgrove in the winner’s circle.
— LoCoSports (@LoCoSports) May 27, 2015
Freshman second baseman Justin Hanvey helped to end a Sherando threat in the top of the first, sliding to his left and throwing out the batter-runner to prevent a seeing-eye base hit to right field which would have scored another Warrior run. Then in the bottom half of the inning, Hanvey got the scoring started for the Wolverines after hitting a one-out single, drawing an errant throw on a pickoff attempt and eventually scoring on a Gilson RBI single.
Sophomore catcher Ryan Miles wanted a piece of the action and singled in the game-tying run in the bottom of the fourth. In the top of the next frame, with a relief pitcher on the mound in a jam, Miles threw out Sherando freshman Frank Ritter trying to swipe third.
After Miles picked up the second out in the fifth, Bowman struck out the final batter of the inning to escape the threat unfazed.
“I asked him if he could get me two outs, and he told me he could get me two outs, but not much after that,” Smith said. “He went up there and located his pitches and got a big out for us.”
Smith noted that Bowman – who hasn’t thrown much in the last month – came to practice on May 25, feeling under the weather, but agreed to throw a bullpen in case he was needed in relief in the conference championship.
“[Monday], I felt some arm tenderness again. We’ve been being careful the last three weeks, so I haven’t thrown much,” Bowman said. “I threw a bullpen [Monday] and dropped down in the arm slot a little bit because I felt no pain with that. When I went out there [Tuesday], I just had to pound the strike zone. I was very happy that I got to go out there and help my team with my pitching.”
Even with twelve hits, the Wolverines struggled to manufacture a lot of run support, but luckily their pitching staff continues to keep them in ball games.
Senior starter Hank Biggs allowed two unearned runs over his 4.1 innings pitched, striking out six Warriors while issuing only one walk. Bowman relieved Biggs in the fifth, getting two big outs before being lifted for junior Austin Rader in the sixth.
Rader struck out three in just two innings of work while dominating the Warriors’ line up and giving his team a chance to win in the seventh.
“The relief is exactly what I expected it to be. Hank’s been in those situations where he doesn’t have his best stuff, but he always finds a way to battle and get through enough of a game where we can pass it on to our bullpen,” Smith said. “Our pitching is going to keep us in a lot of games which is nice. I think we’re in a good place, but we can’t get complacent.”
The win sealed Woodgrove a No. 1 seed in the VHSL 4A North region playoffs as they will host the Conference 23 runner up on Monday, June 1 at 6 p.m. in Purcellville.
“With a six day layoff, you can get into a run where you take too much batting practice and don’t see enough live pitching,” Smith said. “We just need to make sure we stay focused at what our task is and keep working offensively.”
Hanvey, J. 2-4, R
Gilson 3-4, R, RBI
Rader 1-2, BB
Serley 0-1, 3 BB
Bowman 2-2, RBI
Robst 1-3, 2B
Miles 1-3, RBI
Whitfield 1-2, sac bunt, ROE
Ritter 2-4, ROE, R
Whitacre 2-3, R, RBI, SB
Stevenson 1-3, RBI
White 0-1, BB
Rohrbaugh 0-1, BB
Michaud 0-2, sac bunt
Biggs ND 4.1 IP, 2 R, 0 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 6 K
Bowman .2 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K
Rader W 2 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 3 K
Michaud ND 6 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 10 H, 2 BB, 5 K
Ritter L +IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 0 K
Owen Gotimer is a graduate of Syracuse University where he earned a degree in broadcast and digital journalism. Before attending SU, Owen graduated from Heritage High School in Leesburg. Follow LoCoSports on Twitter (@LoCoSports) for up-to-date news and scores from around Loudoun County.