Aerial View of Historic Harpers Ferry

Purcellville is located on the rural west side of the very urban Washington, DC metropolis. Continuing past Purcellville into the heart of Northern Virginia is an amazing drive into tranquil and very green pastures, dotted with horse farms, grape-heavy vineyards and historic little villages. About 40 minutes away and into West Virginia is the famous town of Harpers Ferry where John Brown led a raid upon the armory located there and this event is considered the starting point of the American Civil War. John Brown was tried and executed by the Virginia courts for his role, convicted as a treasonist for his violent advocacy to abolish slavery.

Backyard at Town's Pub in Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry is located at the intersection of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. Thomas Jefferson stood upon a boulder overlooking the rivers and declared it to be “one of the most stupendous scenes in nature” he had ever seen. George Washington traveled here to survey the site and suggested that an armory be constructed here in 1785, the same one John Brown attacked 80 years later. I had lunch in Town’s Pub in their backyard seating area, which is built against a cliff of weathered shale rock, waited upon by a pleasant West Virginian named Jaime, who spoke with the drawl of a Southern gentleman.

Last night we faced Waite Park, MN for the semifinal match-up; Waite Park finished 2nd in preliminary play in the National Division pool which earned them a day-off on Thursday while we played the quarterfinal game (vs. Arkansas). Dressed in bright red, white and blue jerseys with pinstripe pants, Waite Park started the inning in the field as the home team and retired TVBR in 4 batters. Waite Park had a great crowd on their side as well this evening who pumped their team up. Sam Nathan was our starting pitcher and had a tough time resolving the umpire’s small strike zone. Nathan walked the first batter, but got a nice K after throwing about 10 pitches to their #2 hitter. Their #14 then smacked an RBI double to left to plate the first run of the game. He then got into a pickle between 2nd and 3rd and was locked in between two lines of Navy Blue shirts, but a dropped ball on the tag at 3rd kept him on base. #42 then sacraficed to right to plate their 2nd run.

Coach Mike Vincent with Keith DeHollander

In baseball it is important to win back innings, so the boys had a 3-run goal and met it with insurance to spare. After striking out Ryan Anderson (RF), both Nathan and Daniel Jackson (C) drew walks with Austin Piscotty (2B) hitting a nice RBI single to right of center, then advanced to 2nd on the relay. With runners at 2nd and 3rd, Cam Santos (SS) smacked an RBI single for run #2 to tie the game with one out. Josh Sprugasci (LF) hit a fielder’s choice to short, but instead of throwing to 2nd to force the lead runner, went to 1st for the out for a “mental” error, putting runners at 2nd and 3rd with the dangerous and hot-hitting Casey Solits (CF) on-deck. Case rocketed his first pitch for a 2-RBI double over the right fielder’s head bouncing against the fence. 4 – 2 TVBR. Waite Park did not hestiate to answer back in the bottom of 2.

After fielding a pop up to the mound, Nathan walked the second hitter and he advanced 1 base on a ball past DJ. MN’s #9 then hit a grounder down the right field line for an RBI single, but was thrown out after the first pitch with a quick pick-off throw from DJ. Despite a head-first dive back to the bag and a late sweep tag by Jake Dronkers (1B), the umpire held up the fist for an out. According to Jake, his size 13 shoe was planted firmly in front of the runners head and was completely blocked from reaching the bag. Nathan notched another strike out to end the inning.

Even though we didn’t need to win the inning back, we continued our offensive steamroller to insure we were not going to fall back. Anderson led-off the 3rd with a double to left and Nathan followed with a walk. DJ laid down a sac bunt to put both lead runners into scoring slots. Piscotty then drew a walk to load the bases with David Gomez pinching in for Santos; on his first pitch, D-mez drove a deep sac fly and RBI to center before ending the inning. 5 – 3 TVBR. Nathan induced his lead-off into an easy grounder to 2nd, but #14 hit a hard bouncer to Noah Robbins at 3rd who blocked it with his chest but could not throw in time for the out. #42 took his spot in the box and as Nathan came set, once again #14 was caught off guard; Nathan threw to Dronkers who gave chase and easily tagged #14 for the out between 1st and 2nd.

Spurgasci walked to lead the fourth, but a bad pick-off attempt put him on 2nd. Soltis was brushed by his 2nd pitch and went to 1st on the dead ball. Robbins laid a bunt down the first base line that found it’s own magical groove. The first basemen charged to scoop the ball with Robbins flying right by him in a near collision, but when he turned to throw, only Noah showed up for the party at firstbase – I guess the 2nd baseman had other things to do. With bases loaded, Dronkers singled past 3rd over the bag for a 2-RBI double to plate Spurgasci and Soltis. Anderson followed with a perfectly placed oppo single to right to send Noah home. Nathan continued with a grounder to 3rd playing in, but Dronkers went toward home instead of back with the 3rd baseman turning to start a pickle; with the throw to the catcher, Dronkers pivoted back and dove for 3rd barely safe under the tag – and Nathan advanced to 2nd. DJ then singled to left for an RBI and Austin reached on a dropped Texas Leaguer to center, but the ball got to 2nd ahead of DJ for the force. 10 – 3 TVBR. Nathan struck out the lead-off to start the bottom of 4, but the batter reached on the dropped 3rd strike. #7 grounded to 1 for the force, but Dronkers could not gather the ball up for the tag play at 2nd. #21 then struck out in 3 pitches. With #9 facing 0-2, DJ threw to 2nd for a pick play, but the ball found daylight through 2 TVBR defenders and Soltis chased the ball all the way to the fence allowing an MN run.

MN installed a new pitcher to start the fifth – but Spurgasci was served up spaghetti with a meatball to fuel a triple to the deepest part of center field. Again, with runners on, Soltis delivered a 3-1 single to left to score Josh easily. Noah grounded out to 3rd advancing Case to 2nd. Dronkers, hungry as well, made mashed potatoes out of his 2-1 pitch for what looked like a homer to left field, but the dewey night landed the ball against the fence for a stand-up RBI double. Franco drew a walk on a full count with Sam and DJ both flying out to left and center respectively. 12 – 4 TVBR. Nathan then retired the side in order to preserve the score going to the 6th.

Unfortunately, Waite Park also retired the side throwing only 3 pitches so TVBR jogged out to their positions with about 43 seconds rest. Waite Park offense found some great opportunities in this inning scoring 3. The lead-off walked (it seems the lead-off reaching on walks, HBP or errors always scores) and stole second with 1 out, then was backed-up with another walk. The 4-hitter #7 doubled to left on a dying swan that Spru just could not reach in time for an RBI. The #21 repeated with another shot to Josh’s foul-side that went to the corner for 2 more runs. After 115 pitches, Nathan was replaced with Piscotty in relief. He walked his first batter, but TVBR rallied behind him and put together a double play to end the inning with a grounder to Robbins forcing at 3 and throwing to 1. 12 – 7 TVBR.

The top of 7 did not add any runs for TVBR. Piscotty came out again for the save and saw his 2nd pitch sail to center for a single. The next hitter, #1, grounded to Robbins to start another double play, this time from 3rd to 2nd to 1. The last batter grounded weakly to 2nd for the easy out and TVBR advances to finals. Final score 12 – 7 TVBR.

Flordia beat their opponent, West End Williamsport, PA and once again, we will face Tallahassee in the final game of the 14 year old World Series in Purcellville, VA.

Interesting note #1: Steve Nathan, while walking through the parking lot, was stopped by a gentleman asking if he was at Fireman’s Field. Steve said he was in the right place. The gentleman had just driven in from Harpers Ferry after hearing about the event and despite not knowing anything about the teams or the tournament, decided to make the drive in hopes of watching some “good old fashioned baseball.”

Interesting note #2: A gentleman and his wife from Florida stopped Jake after the game and introduced themselves. Jake and I didn’t recognize them at first, but when he mentioned his son’s name – the bells started ringing. Their son, Haggin Michaels, Florida’s infielder, played with Jake during a winter tournament in Gainesville, FL back in December of 2007 while on the Boys of Baseball National Tournament Team, where together they won the 12 year old division championship trophy.

Interesting note #3: I was chatting with John Schieber (Sam’s grandfather and Mary’s dad) and he was recollecting his days with Dutra Real Estate in Fremont several years ago. I asked him if he remembered a young man named Troy Winter, who also worked for Dutra as a media specialist. “Of course I remember Troy!” said John. I replied, “Troy is my nephew!”