The Blacksburg Bruins visited Hidden Valley on Friday with the goal of repeating as River Ridge Tournament Champions. Last season, the Bruins upset the Regular Season Champions, Hidden Valley, in the season ending Tournament. However, this year, with the new VHSL classifications, the tournament champion determines the # 1 region seed whereas in past years, the regular season champion was an automatic #1 region seed and the tournament champion was the # 2 seed. If the same team won the regular season and the District Tournament, then the tournament runner up was the # 2 seed. Thus, a lot was riding on this championship game vs prior seasons, as the winner determined the all important region seeding next week in region play.
With the Conference 32 championship on the line, the Bruins sent Sophomore Jake Verniel to the mound. Verniel beat HV earlier in the season and kept them to a season low one hitter. The Titans sent their ace, Harry Preas, to the mound in hopes of securing a #1 region seed, which also carries the luxury of hosting a game.
Blacksburg jumped on Preas right out of the gate, scoring three runs in the top of the 1st. Jon Hinson led off with a bunt single and then stole 2B. After a ground out that advanced Hinson to 3B, Ethan Goforth hit an RBI ground out, scoring Hinson to take a 1-0 lead. Jake Schirmer singled to center field and then Adam Linkous drew a walk. Tyler Davis drew a walk and Blacksburg now had loaded the bases. Jacob Sparrow then delivered a huge two out RBI double to right field, scoring Linkous and Schirmer (3-0). A player was thrown out on the base path for the 3rd out of the inning. But, Blacksburg had taken a huge 3-0 lead right out of the gate.
Hidden Valley came back and scored a run of their own in the bottom of the 1st, With one out, a triple put a runner on 3B, and the an RBI ground out scored the runner (3-1). Verniel forced a fly out to end the inning.
In the top of the 2nd, Preas settled down and retired Blacksburg in consecutive order. In the bottom half of the inning, Hidden Valley picked up another run to close the Bruin lead to 3-2. A lead off single and then a walk put two runners on base with no outs, and then a run scored on a fielder’s choice. Verniel battled back and struck out the next batter and then forced a fly out to get himself out of the jam.
Morgan McCoy led of the top of the 3rd with a double, but was stranded.
Hidden Valley tied the game in the bottom of the 3rd, 3-3. A single led off the inning, and then Verniel forced two ground outs. After a walk, an RBI single scored a run. Blacksburg secured the last out when they threw a Titan out stealing.
Tyler Davis led of the top of the 4th with a walk, but was stranded as the next three Blacksburg batters were retired in consecutive order.
Hidden Valley blew the game open in the bottom of the 4th. Verniel forced two hard line outs, and then a single and a walk put two runners on base. A batter reached on an infield error, and then the next batter tripled, clearing the bases and scoring three runs (6-3). The next batter hit a HR over the center field wall to put two more runs on the board (8-3). Verniel struck out the next batter for the 4th out of the inning.
Ethan Goforth reached based on an error by the third baseman but was stranded in the top of the 5th.
In the bottom of the 5th, Matt Uttermark led of with a double, his third hit of the game. Blacksburg made a pitching change to Jon Hinson, who forced a fly out for the first out of the inning. The next batter doubled, scoring a run (9-3) and then scored (10-3) on an infield throwing error. Hinson retired the next two batters by fly out and ground out.
Blacksburg finally got some offense going in the top of the 6th. With two outs, consecutive singles by Tyler Davis and Jacob Sparrow gave the Bruins two base runners. However, a strike out ended the inning for the Bruins.
Hidden Valley ended the game via the ten run rule in the bottom of the 6th when they scored three runs to extend their lead to 13-3. A lead off double got things started, and then a walk put a second runner on base. A single to right field loaded the bases for the Titans, and then Uttermark singled to left field, getting his fourth hit of the game and scoring a run (11-3). A RBI ground out scored another run (12-3) and after an intentional walk to load the bases and force an out at any base, a single to center field scored a run (13-3) and ended the championship game.
Hidden Valley scored thirteen runs off fourteen hits and made one error in the field. The Titan's Mark Uttermark was an incredible 9/12 vs the Bruins this season.
Blacksburg scored three runs off six hits and made four errors in the field. Jake Verniel pitched four innings for Blacksburg scattering seven hits and giving up just 2 earned runs. He walked three and struck out two. Jon Hinson pitched in relief, giving up five hits, three earned runs, waking two, and striking out two.
Offensively, Blacksburg was led by Jacob Sparrow, who was 2/3. Jon Hinson, Morgan McCoy, Jake Schirmer, and Tyler Davis each added a hit for the Bruins.
With the loss, the Bruins fall to 13-9 on the season and will travel to Western Albemarle on Monday for region play. The Warriors are 20-1 on the season and beat Turner Ashby 10-3 in the Conference 29 tournament finals. Every starter on the Warriors team was named to the All District team. They had six first teamers, two second teamers and one HM. Pitcher Jack Maynard (8-0, 0.43 ERA) was POY and Coach Hudgins was named COY. The season ends for the loser of this region playoff game. The top two finishers in the region advance to the State Tournament. The region winner is a #1 seed in the State Tournament.