Ashburn, Va. – The Heritage High School baseball team looked to be in full control as they entered the bottom of the seventh inning, up 7-0 and with 2 outs against Broad Run. The Spartans, however, would not go down without a fight, as they took advantage of a few walks and a grand slam to cut the lead to 7-5.
Nevertheless, the Pride closed the door with a strikeout to earn the hard-fought Dulles District win, 7-5, on March 31 in Ashburn.
The start of the game featured solid pitching as neither Broad Run senior pitcher Jackson Hulcher nor Heritage sophomore pitcher Aaron Van Tuyle allowed a hit through the first two innings.
“Aaron was phenomenal tonight,” Heritage head coach Nolan Potts said. “He kept them off balance the entire game and did an excellent job bearing down and getting out of some jams in the early innings.”
Heritage sophomore shortstop Owen Brundage opened the third by reaching on an error. A couple batters later, junior third baseman Alec Jones grounded out to advance Brundage to third, but thanks to another Broad Run error and his speed to the plate, Brundage scored the first run of the game to put the Pride up 1-0.
Heritage extended its lead in the fourth when freshman right fielder Mark Van Tuyle singled on a hard-hit RBI line drive to center field.
“We had a lot of hard-hit balls tonight and a bunch of loud outs,” Potts said. “We were able to put pressure on the defense and take advantage of some of the miscues.”
Broad Run senior first baseman Andrew Market broke up Van Tuyle’s no hitter with a leadoff single in the bottom of the fourth, but the Spartan excitement was short lived, as Van Tuyle struck out the next batter and then senior catcher Colin Shue caught Market trying to steal second.
“Colin worked his tail off behind the plate, and Aaron went out there and executed the game plan,” Potts said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the job they did out there tonight against a solid team like Broad Run in a big district game.”
The Heritage bats got rolling in the top of the fifth as Brundage and senior second baseman Luke Howard both reached on errors. Jones then bunted for a single, allowing the runners to advance and Brundage to score on a Spartan throwing error.
“We as a coaching staff have been preaching the importance of putting the ball in play, cutting down on the strikeouts, and making the other team make plays to get outs,” Potts said. “We knew Hulcher was going to be around the zone all night, and I think we did a good job putting together quality at-bats.”
With no outs in the top of the fifth and runners on second and third, Shue hit a hard line drive to center field to plate Howard. The elder Van Tuyle then scored Jones on an RBI groundout. With a 5-0 lead, junior left fielder Ryan Harrison crushed an RBI double to the left center warning track. The younger Van Tuyle then singled on a fly ball to right field, plating Harrison and extending the Pride lead to 7-0.
“Our 3 through 6 hitters all drove in runs,” Potts said. “That plays into our philosophy in terms of getting the top of the order on base by any means necessary and giving the middle of the lineup a chance to drive them in. It was great execution by all of those guys to extend the lead, which ended up being huge because of what happened in the bottom of the seventh.”
After a hit-by-pitch put a Spartan runner on first in the bottom of the seventh, the Pride turned an L4-3 double play to stop the immediate threat. However, a few batters later, Van Tuyle had reached his pitch limit, so the Pride turned to Jones to take over with the bases loaded.
Following a balk and a walk, Market crushed a grand slam to give Broad Run some late hope in the seventh, however, Jones shut the door with a strikeout to end the game.
“The grand slam and then the bunt single right after made things interesting,” Potts said. “But Alec did a great job regaining his composure quickly and getting that strikeout to end the game.”
The Pride (3-0, 4-1) will look to continue their winning streak as they travel to Myrtle Beach for a Spring Break tournament. Broad Run (2-1, 4-1) will be back in action after Spring Break with a district game at Lightridge on April 11.