"Country road...take me home...to the place...I belong...California"

Before the evening game, I took an opportunity to drive through the Loudoun County country side and within 40 minutes found myself at Harper’s Ferry, West VA – site of a key uprising leading to the Civil War. The drive was stunning – 2 lane roads through rolling pastures, trees and along the Shenandoah River.

Last night’s game was the first of the single elimination portion of the Babe Ruth World Series here in Purcellville, VA against Bryant, Arkansas; Bryant finished 3rd in pool play. Keith DeHollander had the starting assignment and was backed up by the usual suspects: Shawn Vincent (RF), Casey Soltis (CF), Josh Sprugasci (LF), Noah Robbins (3B), Cameron Santos (SS), Ryan Anderson (2B), Jake Dronkers (1B), Daniel Jackson (C).

Keith DeHollander winding up for another strike out.

For those who haven’t seen DeHollander pitch before, he has a classic wind-up, taking the glove and ball upand over his head, and with a high leg kick, finishes with a long, Lincecum-like stride. He has a nice arsenal of pitches with a good differential between his fastball and off-speed velocities. Keith put all the tools to work and got TVBR back in the dugout in only 4 batters. Arkansas #31 looked big and confident on the mound striking-out Sprugasci with a nasty off-speed, but Jeff Santos (Cam’s dad) was already busy figuring this pitcher’s pattern out. Soltis bunted down the 3rd base line, but the overthrow at 1st advanced him easily to 2nd. Robbins was beaned in the shoulder and Dronkers followed with a swinging bunt between the mound and 3rd, but all 3 defenders just looked at the ball to load the bases. Anderson with 1-2 against him blooped the ball to shallow center for an RBI. Vincent hit a comebacker to the pitcher who carefully threw home for the force, but the catcher’s throw to 1st went wild and Dronkers plated the 2nd run.

Coach Paul watches over the troops

The top of 2 saw TVBR first injury. With runners at 1st and 2nd, #10 hit a grounder to Santos at short who flipped the ball to Anderson covering 2 to start a possible double play; the runner came into 2nd to break-up Ryan’s throw and crashed into his left leg pushing his knee painfully backward. After a minute of hobbling around, Ryan was assisted off the field and Brad Pluschkell filled-in. The inning ended with no other damage, however. Santos led-off the bottom of 2 and Arkansas retired the side in three straight for a “burger joint” inning – In And Out. Unfortunately, the bottom of 3 also served up burgers for TVBR – In and Out in three batters.

Daniel Jackson showed his attention to detail in the 4th. With the lead-off batter reaching first on a walk, he foolishly took a long lead; DJ threw to Dronkers for a sweep tag, but the runner decided to bug-out for 2nd – PICKLE! – every fans favorite baseball snack. Dronkers gave chase and threw to Pluschkell guarding the baseline forcing the runner back, then tagged him out in a few steps of the rundown. #15 then beat out the throw from Robbins at first to put another runner on board. Not to be outdone by DJ’s pick, DeHollander broke stride with another runner attempting to steal and threw to Dronkers and a rundown re-run ensued with the same result for the 3rd out. Arkansas then showed a little defensive prowess themselves. With Pluschkell at 2nd and Vincent at 1st, Jackson hit a grounder to short who forced out Vincent coming to 2nd. The throw went to 1st too late, but the 1st baseman rocketed the ball to 3rd to catch Pluschkell who overslid the base a bit and was tagged. Santos hit a 3-2 pitch to short plating Jackson for an RBI on a bad throw to 1st. 3 – 0 TVBR.

Coach Ron and Josh Sprugasci

[The top of 5 almost saw TVBR’s second injury with Santos chasing a Texas Leaguer toward shallow center with Solits and Sprugasci also coming hard – all of them heads-up looking at the falling ball. Santos gloved a spectacular catch over his shoulder on the run, but Soltis flipped over Cam attempting to avoid a terrible collision – no one hurt though! This is where you readers go, “Dah-na-nah, Dah-na-nah!” (The ESPN thing, you know?). Ok, now it gets better offensively for TVBR. Sprugasci, who uncharacteristically struck out in consecutive at-bats, singled to center for a base hit, then stole 2nd with Soltis at the plate – a perfect combination for another RBI situation. Soltis came through with a targeted basehit to right scoring Sprugasci all the way from 2nd. Dronkers’ left field single stretched to a double on the relay throw toward 3rd and Anderson re-entered the game. Soltis scored on a passed ball with Dronkers moving to 3rd; Anderson then grounded to short, who threw home on the running Dronkers instead of the easier force at 1, and Dronkers won the race with Anderson earning an RBI single. Kyle Franco came in to run for Ryan with Vincent up. Shortstop, unlucky again, overthrew first on Vincent’s grounder allowing Franco to 3rd. Vincent then stole 2nd, but Arkansas covered this situation well and prevented Franco from stealing home. DJ then flew out to deep right for a sacrafice RBI tallying up 4 runs for the inning. 7 – 0 TVBR.

Franco remained in the game at 2nd and Austin Piscotty took the bump. His first batter was fanned in 4 pitches, but was followed by #31(the pitcher) hitting a nice double to the right field fence. #20 saw two quick strikes and #31 advanced to 2nd on a steal. The batter took the next pitch for a grounder to the 3rd/SS hole with Robbins ranging glove-side for the scoop; with a hard look to freeze the 2nd base runner, Robbins fired to 1st for the force, but never-say-die Arkansas attempted to take 3rd and was thrown out with feet to spare on Dronkers’ laser shot back to Santos covering the bag at 3rd. TVBR completed the 6th with another RBI on Soltis’ sacrafice fly out to right field. 8 – 0 TVBR.

Needing only 3 outs for the win, Piscotty faced 4 batters to put this quarterfinal game in the books as another TVBR win! Jake Dronkers earned Player of the Game.