By Owen Gotimer
By Leah Coles
Purcellville (June 4, 2015) – Loudoun Valley High School senior ace Jack DeGroat made quick work of the Culpeper County High School line up on June 3 in a VHSL 3A East region quarterfinal, striking out the side in the first inning. And the second. And the third.
DeGroat did not slow down as he struck out 16 Blue Devils, in a game where his strike outs were not his highlight.
The headline: DeGroat tosses a no-hitter.
“It always helps to strike out the side on nine pitches in the first inning,” DeGroat said. “I was nervous before the game started because I knew they were a good team. After the first inning, after I was able to do that, it really settled me down.”
After retiring his first 18 batters, DeGroat faced a 3-0 count to the leadoff batting Blue Devil Zach Bullard in the top of the seventh. The Liberty University-commit dug deep finding the zone on the next two pitches to fill up the count. In front of a home crowd – at Fireman’s Field – DeGroat stepped in the hole at the bottom of the mound and missed low for ball four, walking Bullard and allowing the first Culpeper County batter to reach base.
DeGroat struck out the next batter – shocker! – for out number one, fielded his position on a short groundball to the left side for out number two, then picked off Bullard at second base to end the game: facing the minimum 21 batters.
“I’m happy with the outcome, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more mad at myself than when I walked the first guy in the seventh inning,” DeGroat said. “I can live with a no hitter and the win.”
The Vikings’ third no-hitter of the season – junior Justin Ager tossed the other two – came at the perfect moment as Culpeper County ace Jermaine Butler tossed a gem of his own, allowing two groundballs to sneak through the infield in the fifth, plating Loudoun Valley’s only two runs of the game.
After hitting the game-winning, two-RBI double against William Monroe High School in the conference semifinal and the momentum-swinging, three-run home run against John Champe High School in the conference championship, Loudoun Valley junior Hunter Gore was at it again, breaking open the scoreless tie with a two-out RBI single in the fifth against Culpeper County in the region quarterfinal.
“Hunter’s seeing the ball really well right now, and he’s the guy who’s confident at the plate,” Loudoun Valley head coach Wayne Todd said. “We talk about all the time let’s be confident up there; you be the guy who wants to be up there. Hunter is that clutch guy right now.”
Not only has Gore been the go-to guy offensively for the Vikings, he’s also the guy behind the dish, catching all three of Loudoun Valley’s no-hitters this spring.
“After that first inning you can just tell if a pitcher’s on,” Gore said. “As soon as that first inning is over, you have that feeling, you have confidence right away and you know it’s going to be a good day for your pitcher.”
Gore caught nine pitches strikes in the first inning of the region quarterfinal, and even Todd couldn’t help, but crack a smile.
“[DeGroat]’s always had composure on the mound with an ability to finish games. When you don’t have a lot of experience out there sometimes finishing games is tough,” Todd said. “He’s overpowering. He’s 90, 91. I don’t know what he touched tonight, but last week against William Monroe he touched 91, 92. When you get up to that level, it’s hard to hit – that isn’t 85, 86. He comes right at you. I’m really happy for him to throw that no hitter. It’s hard to do. I don’t care who you are, it’s hard to do.”
DeGroat and the Vikings get to celebrate their no-hitter for less than 24 hours, as Loudoun Valley (21-2) has to travel to Riverbend High School on Thursday, June 4 to play Colonial Heights High School (21-0) in a VHSL 3A East region semifinal.
“We have to go in and hit the ball. Our pitching and defense will take care of it. Runs are going to be key in that game,” Gore said. “It’s going to be a tough game for us. It’s our big step in getting to states, and I think the team is going to have a pretty clutch moment.”
Bowles 1-4, SB
Urban 2-3, BB, SB
Lockhart 0-3, BB, R
McDyre 0-2, BB, R
Gore 1-3, RBI
Lohr 1-2, HBP, RBI
Eberhart 0-2, BB
Meyer 0-2, HBP, ROE
Bullard 0-2, BB
Berry, A. 0-2
Berry, Au. 0-2
DeGroat W 7 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 H, 1 BB, 16 K
Butler L 6 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 H, 4 BB, 2 HBP, 8 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.
Leah Coles is a junior at Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville. Follow LoCoSports on Twitter (@LoCoSports) for up-to-date news and scores from around Loudoun County.