TVBR led by Dronkers’ 2-hit Complete Game Shut-out Are New World Series Champs!

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Tri-Valley Babe Ruth 14 Year Old World Champions

Today started out like most days – the sun rose in the east and we switched on the morning news to catch the weather update with a hot cup of coffee. History does repeat itself occasionally, because that’s exactly how our day started the last time we were scheduled to play Tallahassee in the World Series final game in Utah in ’09. Today, we would face them again at 1:00 p.m. at Fireman’s Field in Purcellville, VA to avenge our loss last year and with no other goal than to bring home ALL the hardware and the National Title. One Team. One Goal.

History not only repeats itself, but mirrors the present sometimes as well. I did a little research and discovered an amazing set of time-warped parallels.

The California-100 Regiment Civil War Flag

The entire area we called home for the past 10 days is filled with the ghosts and legacies of the American Revolution and the Civil War. During the Civil War, Florida joined the Confederacy and California aligned with the Union. In August of 1863, a regiment of California volunteers known simply as “The Hundred” joined the ranks of the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry and descended into…believe it or not, Loudoun County, VA and set-up base camp not far from Purcellville. It was here they did battle against Mosby’s Raiders, a detachment of the famous Col. JEB Stuart, and on August 24 the CAL-100 sent the Confederate troops packing after one of the Californians lodged a bullet in Mosby’s thigh. A single bullet.

Now, 147 years and 4 days later, the Californians returned to Loudoun County, VA and sent our Southern opponent from Florida home after one hell of a fight and, like the single bullet in Mosby’s thigh, one run was all it took.

“…all of a sudden it became a hand-to-hand affair. It was soon evident that he was in for a whipping. The Californians, especially notoriously good fighters, were standing up to the rack like men, dealing out the best they had. They rallied at every call and fought the battle bravely with banners flying.” John Munson, commenting on the California 100 during their battle with Mosby’s Raiders.

This blog is going to be so much more fun to write than last year’s! Here we go!

As visitors we were at the plate first and rotated right out going 1-2-3. Jake Dronkers (P) then took the hill and on his first pitch, gave up a deep fly ball for a double to right of center. Despite the devastating first hit, Dronkers induced the second hitter, #44 to a pop-up right over the mound, followed by another pop-up to Casey Soltis (1B) and then struck out #20 on a full-count pitch to end the inning.

Jake led off the 2nd by hitting a Texas Leaguer – high and lazy – to shallow right/center which found the grass instead of leather, and Jake scooted all the way to 2nd. Ryan Anderson (2B) hit a fielder’s choice to 2B moving Jake to 3rd, followed by David Gomez’ long fly ball to right to score Jake to take the lead.  The bottom of two was over in a flash with Jake retiring the side in 3 batters with only 5 pitches. 1 – 0 TVBR.

The 3rd was led by DJ who grounded out to 3rd, and then Cam Santos blasted a double to the right field fence, but over-rounded 2nd and was tagged on the baseline with a stellar relay throw. Josh Sprugasci ended the inning with a K. The TVBR boys hustled back out to their spots and Jake again retired the side facing only 3 batters and throwing a measly 8 pitches. 1 – 0 TVBR.

The 4th started off with Casey Soltis popping up to the shortstop followed by Noah Robbins’ ground out to short. Jake singled to right but was stranded on Ryan’s fly out to left. The pace of this game was incredible as the middle of the 4th consumed less than 1 hour. Jake induced the first two Florida batters to fly out to right field, both swinging pretty late on his fastballs. #20 drew a walk on a full-count and #10 batted a nice single to right advancing the lead runner to 3rd. With runners threatening Jake gathered his composure and struck out #37 on a 1-2 count.  The score stood still at 1 -0 in favor of TVBR.

D-mez led-off with a pop-up to first and Shawn Vincent popped-up to 2nd. DJ then hit a long ball to center for an out. Man, the game seemed to be accelerating now. Not to be outdone by Taddeeo (Florida’s starter), Jake retired another Florida inning facing only 3 batters with a ground-out, a strike out and a fly ball to left. 1 – 0 TVBR.  Obviously in the thick of a pitcher’s duel, it oddly felt in favor of TVBR at this point despite our weak offense, but TVBR was at least putting the ball into play more than Florida was and this tipped the balance toward Tri-Valley.

The 6th started with Cam grounding out to short on a 3-2 pitch, followed by a Sprugasci K. Casey singled but Noah stranded him with a fielder’s choice to 3rd to 1. If Jake experienced any trouble with control, I guess you could say it was in the bottom of the 6th. He got his first batter out with a grounder to first, then hit #44 with his first pitch. It took Jake 6 pitches to strike out #8 and DJ quickly extinguished the inning by throwing out #44 at 2nd with a laser strike on his attempted steal.

With the top of seven, all TVBR fans were now saying prayers aloud for insurance runs. Jake led off with a ground out, followed by Ryan’s deep center fly out. D-mez hit a shot to 3rd and hard 90’d it to first for a basehit, then stole 2nd. Sam Nathan came in to pinch hit and drew a walk on 6 pitches followed by DJ’s walk to load the bases. Our prayers were almost answered when Cam stepped up and roped his first pitch for a grounder to short to strand all three runners.

At this point, standing on a ladder filming the game from right field, I am hardly breathing and starting to shake. Why didn’t we get more runs? Florida is notorious for coming back with hot bats when they’re down. Why couldn’t we be the home team? Why? Why? Why!?! I should have been more confident and Jake made me look really dumb. Florida’s #20 grounded out on his 2nd pitch, followed with another grounder to short on an 0-2 pitch. With everyone holding their breath, Jake threw strike one, then strike two and with the next pitch #37 grounded hard to Cam at short who gathered it up gracefully and threw to Soltis at first just like any other routine grounder. Game. Set. Match. World Series Champions and the dog pile was on in front of 2nd base!

This Is How World Champs Dog Pile!

Cam Santos and Casey Soltis were awarded All-Tournament Offensive Team honors with engraved Rawlings bats; Jake Dronkers and Josh Sprugasci received Golden Glove trophies and named to the All-Tournament Defensive Team. Jake Dronkers was awarded Player of the Game and Casey Soltis, breaking all-time Babe Ruth World Series records for most hits and most RBI’s, received the All-Tournament World Series Most Valuable Player trophy!

I believe in ghosts and I believe that their energies remain in the present, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.  Were the California Hundred present to watch us battle a southern state on the 147th anniversary of their victory over the Confederates?  I believe they were and just like the modern soldiers who come out to watch our games at Camp Parks – I believe they were thoroughly entertained today.

TVBR Beats Minnesota – Faces Rival FL for National Title

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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!”

TVBR Advances to Semi’s with a Shut-out over Arkansas

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"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.

TVBR Back With a Win Against VA – Locks In Quarterfinal Slot

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Host-family Falli Kids - Alli, Meghan and Brandon

Our fourth game of pool play was scheduled for Wednesday night under the lights in Fireman’s Stadium against the Virginia State Champions; the game was delayed by an hour due to a back-up somewhere down the line of earlier games. Despite having one more game to play in pool, the tournament math determined that TVBR was already the 2nd place team in pool play and that meant this game would be statistically unimportant for us. With that, there were some changes in the line-up and defensive position assignments: Ryan Anderson (3B), Casey Soltis (P), Noah Robbins (C), Daniel Jackson (LF), David Gomez (RF), Brad Pluschkell (2B), Keith DeHollander (1B), Kyle Franco (CF), and Cam Santos (SS).

The night was pleasantly cool with a full moon rising over the 3rd base bleachers. School hasn’t started here yet, so lots of local families filled-in the seats and of course, our TVBR faithful families and host families were in-force. The home team, literally, was the Virginia State Champions from Winchester so their bleachers were extra crowded. Even though Winchester did not win their regional tournament, they received a slot in the World Series as a courtesy to the hosting state.

The game seemed to start with that slow, country feel – the crowd was quiet, the players seemed subdued – even the snack bar closed early. The Purcellville Fire Department volunteers sat in their uniforms, walkie-talkies at the ready in case of an emergency while unidentified giant flying insects swarmed around the stadium lights. Soltis’ pitching was quick and efficient starting the bottom of the first retiring the side in only 9 pitches, but Virginia’s pitcher also kept our runners off the infield until the 3rd.

Shawn Vincent at the rail

Santos led-off the top of 3 with a nice single through 2B with Anderson executing an excellent hit-and-run play to right field advancing Santos to 3rd. Soltis then ripped a towering hit to the centerfield warning track for a 2-RBI triple. Jackson plated Soltis with a grounder through to center before the end of the inning. 3 runs, 5 hits and 1 left on base for TVBR. Josh Sprugasci came in to replace Soltis on the mound and had his hands full loading the bases with the first 3 batters faced. Spru then induced Virginia’s #22 into a double-play which sent the 3rd base runner home. #15 and #9 then hit back-to-back RBI doubles, then a walk to #12 put runners at the corners with 2 outs. At the next pitch to #2, the first base runner took off for 2nd in a typical 1st and 3rd play, but TVBR retaliated with Robbins throwing to a pulled-up Pluschkell who fired back to the plate for the tag out to end the inning.

For the top of 4, Sam Nathan was inserted for Jackson and led-of with a single to center. Franco then doubled with a nice hit to center and stretched it to 3 bases when the relay bobbled the throw sending Nathan home. Franco plated on a passed ball with Santos waving him in at the plate, then drew a walk himself. With Anderson up, Santos was thrown out at 2nd stealing, then both Anderson and Soltis followed with a pop-up and a ground-out. 5 – 3 TVBR. Austin Piscotty replaced Spru on the bump to start the bottom of the fourth and struck out his first batter in 4 pitches. But with a couple of errors committed behind him, Piscotty saw the lead narrow by a run before the end of the inning. 5 – 4 TVBR.

Josh Sprugasci reads the signs

Robbins led-off the 5th with a hit to center and was pinched at 1st with Shawn Vincent. Facing an 0-1 pitch, Spru dropped a bunt in front of the plate on a bunt-and-run play and Vincent motored all the way to 3rd ahead of the throw from 1st. D-mez then singled to right to score Vincent and stole 2nd with Nathan at the plate who hit into a fielder’s choice. 6 – 4 TVBR. Vincent took the hill and gave up a single to Virginia’s #2 followed by a couple more singles to load the bases with 1 out. #12 hit a liner to 3rd for a force out and an RBI and #5 followed with a walk to load the bases again with 2 out. #25 then drove a 2-2 count to Solits’ (1B) glove-side (he’s a lefty) with a sharp grounder, but laying out, Solits webbed it and threw to Vincent covering 1st for the out. Had that ball found daylight, 2 runs would have easily plated. 6 – 5 TVBR.

Piscotty (C) led-off the 6th with a walk, then stole 2nd on a passed ball to Santos. Santos and Anderson grounded out, before Soltis hit the 360′ sign in center field with another towering shot for a 2-run in-the-park homer! 8 – 5 TVBR. Franco was our new pitcher in the merry-go-round bullpen. #6 doubled down the 3rd base line and #2 stroked a single to center to plate his runner and Franco retired the next two batters.

Despite a nice hit by Pluschkell in the top of 7, no other runs scored for TVBR. Jake Dronkers came in for the save ending the inning with a strike-out, a walk, and finally a double play with the ball grounding to the 2nd base hole, Soltis coming off first to scoop and throw to Santos at 2nd and returning the ball to first with Dronkers covering. 8 – 6 TVBR.

Tonight’s game is the quarterfinal game between the 2nd place American Division team (TVBR) and the 3rd place National Division team – Arkansas. We play at 5:30 p.m. EST. For his performance, Casey Soltis was awarded the Player of the Game award, as was David Gomez in the game against Tallahassee.

TVBR Close But Drops Another One to Florida

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(NOTE: I typed this up on my laptop sitting in the back seat of a car while driving to DC.  Forgive me in advance for typos.)

Sometimes a simple game becomes larger than life. Usually it is the “big” game, a final game or an elimination game. And sometimes it’s the game between rivals as with today’s game between TVBR and Tallahassee, FL. As you may recall, Tallahassee and TVBR met in the final game of the 13-year old World Series in Utah last summer where we lost a heart-breaker by one run, so today’s game was about avenging that loss.

But before I go on, we have to remember TVBR is just a youth baseball team from the sleepy side of the SF Bay Area and they have a rival located 46 states away in Florida. That to me is amazing in and of itself and really exemplifies the level of play TVBR has achieved as a nationally-recoginzed power team. How many 14 year old boys can say they have played boys and teams from literally all over this great country and to list a Florida team as their rival?

Don’t get me wrong – this rivalry isn’t about loud mouths and cheap shots. Florida is a great group of sportsmen, just like TVBR. They are winners and want to win, just like TVBR. And last year, when Florida won the championship, they removed their caps before shaking each of our boys’ hands as a sign of respect between true competitors. Today, we met again in this little town of Purcellville and TVBR, the parents and our new-found host families were super pumped up to get this game under our belt. I even read in the local Loudoun-Times Mirror newspaper’s website, comments from local folks excited to see this re-match; it’s as if the game took on a national Babe Ruth mystique, kind of like the Yankees versus the Red Sox, but completely different, if that makes any sense.

Brian Hsu (P) took the hill as the home team pitcher and got out of the top of 1 facing only 4 batters, leaving one runner stranded. TVBR then took their bats and with two early outs, got the ball rolling. Noah Robbins (3B) was first to reach with a base hit to right of center, followed by Jake Dronkers (1B) bloop shot over shortstop where the left fielder mishandled the ball allowing it to continue rolling past him – Robbins plated and Dronkers went to second. Ryan Anderson grounded out to end the inning. 1 – 0 TVBR.

Hsu got into a bit of a jam in the 2nd allowing a lead-off double a sacrafice fly and a walk to put runners on 1st and 3rd with two outs, but induced the last hitter into a grounder to Robbins at 3rd to preserve the lead. Hsu them led-off for TVBR and singled to right. Shawn Vincent (RF) grounded to short for a fielder’s choice at 2nd after two fouled bunts and Danny Jackson (C) hit a deep fly to center – 340′ – for out #2 and Franco grounded to short for another fielder’s choice.

TVBR’s defense continued to protect Hsu with stellar play. Florida’s #7 led off with a sharp single up the middle for a single. #44 took his 2-0 pitch hard down the infield 3rd base line where Robbins thru to Anderson at 2nd to a stretched-out Dronkers at 1st for a double-play the hard-90 way! Hsu then retired #8 in 3 pitches for a strike-out. Despite each batter putting the ball in-play, TVBR could not convert Soltis’ single to a run.

Florida’s hitters saw the ball well in the top of the 4th and plated 3 runs on a pair of errors and a pair of walks. 3 – 1 Florida. TVBR did not stand down and roared back with 3 runs of their own. Anderson led-off with a single to right-center followed by a Vincent line drive rolling all the way to 390 for an RBI double. Jackson repeated with a deep jack to center field’s 380′ sign plating Vincent. David Gomez pinching in for Kyle Franco (SS) drove another shot to the 350′ mark right-of-center scoring Jackson to take the lead and Florida swapped pitchers. Sprugasci hit into a fielder’s choice to 3B but assuming the ball was going deeper than it did, Gomez over-committed from 2nd and was easily tagged out. Casey Soltis grounded out to end the inning. 4 – 3 TVBR.

Hsu and defense continued to stymie Florida to prevent any runs in the top of 5, allowing 1 hit and 2 runners left on base. Tri-Valley’s Robbins led-off with a single to left and Dronkers’ bunt advanced him to 2nd, but Jake’s hard-90 and a bad throw saw him safe at 1st. Anderson then grounded to 3B for the force and a long throw to first got there before Anderson for the double play. Hsu ended the inning with a grounder. 4 – 3 TVBR.

Keith DeHollander replaced Hsu to start the 6th and retired the side with a flyout followed by two infield grounders. TVBR picked-up an insurance run with Vincent reaching on a full-count walk, advancing to 2nd on Jackson’s fielder’s choice to third. Spurgasci took a 1-2 pitch for a single up the middle to score Vincent. 5 – 3 TVBR.

DeHollander continued on the bump needing only 3 outs for the save in the top of 7, however, Florida’s no stranger to pressure-play and answered back with a lead-off hit to shortstop. KD’s next batter stood his ground and earned a base after getting beaned. Florida’s #10 helped us by striking out at a chin-high fastball. The next hitter #14 hit into a possible double play, which forced the runner out at 2nd but the throw to Dronkers was off a bit and his attempt at a throw to the plate to catch that runner was off as well. KD then beaned the next hitter on a 3-1 pitch on the back of the helmet.

With 2 outs and 2 runners on, Sam Nathan replaced Keith to close – tough spot for anyone, but as they say, right man right time. Nathan got ahead of his first batter 1-2 but his late swing obstructed Jackson’s vision a bit and created a passed ball to the backstop advancing runners to 2nd and 3rd. This batter continued to fight-off Nathan’s pitching with fouls and then walked on 3-2 to load the bases. Florida’s #1 worked the count to 2-2 before roping a single to left to score 2 runs. Nathan got the third out on the next hitter.

Down by 1 now, Robbins took one for the team and reached on a beaning. Dronkers was up next and given the bunt sign, laid down a nice roller and was thrown out at 1, but Robbins was given the bunt-and-run to stretch the sac to 3rd where he was thrown out on a very close tag play from the first baseman. Frustratingly, Austin Piscotty hit a single to right after fouling his first two pitches. With two outs, Nathan took his turn at bat with Anderson pinching for Piscotty.

The first two pitches were balls, then a strike call, followed by another ball. With the count full, Nathan swung hard putting the ball in play to 3B for the fielder’s choice out at first to end the game.

Wow – de ja vu all over again, as Yogi once said. Sure we all walked away stunned by another thrilling game that ended in a loss, but both teams played great and all 30 or so players emptied their tanks. I am Tri-Valley’s biggest fan, but that was still a GREAT game and I know I speak for everyone in the stands – we are very proud to be Tri-Valley fans!

Led by Sprugasci – all 15 members of TVBR Smashes KY!

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I’m sure you have all heard the saying, “Go big or go home!” Well, certainly no one went home today, but Tri Valley led by Josh Sprugasci went very, very big in a 20 to 4 win over Lexington, Kentucky and all 15 of our players contributed to today’s overwhelming win to boot!

It was another terrific day in Purcellville (pronounced “purr-SAH-ville”) for a ball game at Fireman’s Stadium, with temperatures in the low 80’s and partly cloudy skies. For their second game of the tournament, TVBR took the visitor’s dugout on the third base side while the small crowd filed in. As with our host families in Utah, all the TVBR parents are so thankful the host families assigned to our boys have been so terrific. They all come out to watch, fully decked-out in navy blue, wearing our TVBR shirts and hats, or have custom hand-decorated shirts and painted faces or all of the above! They cheer loud, they clap alot and yell out all of the boys’ names – their car windows are decorated with our logo and the names and numbers of the players. Not only are they cheering us on, but they are all taking video and photographs, as well. One of the host dads, Bob Burkhart, managed to finagle a field pass in order to take better photos of our boys during the game. Another dad is bringing me an extension ladder to the game so I can get my video camera up over the high fences for an unobtructed perch. Awesome folks!

After yesterday’s game, Coach Paul warned our players Lexington was a tough team and would probablythrow their ace – forget about Tallahasse for now, Lexington was the only team on our radar. Josh Sprugasci (RF) started off with a triple to the left center gap. Casey Soltis (CF) followed with an RBI double down the right field line to score Spru easily. Noah Robbins (3B) and Jake Dronkers (1B) were out on a pop fly and a liner respectively. Ryan Anderson (LF) kept the inning alive with a grounder to center scoring Casey, but advanced to 2B on a bad pick-off throw to first during Sam Nathan’s (P) at-bat; Sam popped-up to first.

With Nathan on the hill, Kentucky’s first batter grounded sharply to 3B for a routine put out at first followed by a single for #38. However, #15 took his first pitch for an aerial tour of the centerfield gap for a stand-up RBI double. #44 struck out in 3 pitches and #30 grounded out. 2 -1 TVBR. At this point the game had the feeling of being an uphill battle for us.

Daniel Jackson (C) led the second with a nice left field single, and advanced to 2B on a great sacrafice bunt by Cam Santos (SS). David Gomez pinch hitting for Bradley Pluschkell (2B) hit a sharp line drive to center field. It dropped quickly forcing the fielder to rush forward only to have the ball land on his foot, which then deflected the ball over the left fielder’s head, allowing D-mez to advance to 2B. Sprugasci then “traded places” with D-mez with left field single stretched to a double when the relay came into the pitcher. Soltis then roped a 2-run single to right. A passed ball to Robbins moved Soltis to 2B, and then was thrown out on a routine grounder with Soltis moving to 3rd. Dronkers watched a ball sail past the catcher and waved Soltis in for a run, then eventually walked on 4-pitches. Anderson stranded Dronkers with a grounder to 3B to end the inning. 6 – 1 TVBR.

Sam Nathan on the bump.

Kentucky came back with their #5 knocking a 1-1 count pitch high and long to right field. Spru looked up but couldn’t judge the flight of the ball and realized it was going over his head, falling close to the fence for a double. Nathan answered back with his own fireworks and struck out #28 with 4 pitches. #55 followed with a fielder’s choice advancing the runner to 3rd. #12 singled to left for an RBI and #14 earned first base after being ever so slightly brushed by the threads of an inside pitch. #38 roped another RBI single to center, who then took off for second as slow as maple syrup on an 0-2 count to the batter, hoping to draw the throw allowing the 3rd base runner to the plate. Nathan stepped off and threw to Anderson standing in the 2nd base hole but was a bit late throwing home to catch the stealing runner. Nathan then finished off the hitter with a strikeout.

Nathan led-off the top of the 3rd with a monster pop to the center field gap for a 340 foot stand-up double. DJ struck out on a full-count pitch, but Santos singled in Nathan from 2nd with a basehit to right. D-mez found success again with a single to right followed by another Sprugasci 340′ double to center field putting runners at 2 and 3. Soltis took a 1-1 pitch past the shortstop for a 2-RBI single, stretched to a 2-bagger when the throw relayed to the infield. Robbins hit a nice flair oppo to right field, where the routine one-hopper went under the fielder’s glove and rolled all the way to fence, scoring Soltis from 2nd, then stretching his single all the way to 3rd before the ball made it back to the dirt. Dronkers and Anderson left the runner stranded with a pop-up and a looking strike out to end the inning. 11 – 4 TVBR.

After putting the lead-off and 2nd hitter on base, Nathan made short work of the inning retiring the next 3 in order to end the 3rd.

As if a 7-run lead wasn’t big enough, TVBR showed Kentucky, the great state of Virginia and the entire nation just how deep our talent runs. Nathan was able to lead-off a second consecutive inning with yet another double to left field, this one landing around the 375 mark. DJ followed with a single to center and Vincent came off the bench to pinch hit Santos, executing a perfect hit-and-run with a single to right field to score Sammy. D-mez found daylight again with a swinging bunt to the pitcher, but his errant throw took a bad hop, allowing DJ to score easily. Once again the swinging Spru stepped up and watched a wild pitch plate D-mez, then hit a nice single to left for his 3rd hit of the game. Soltis then ripped a stand-up double to left of center for another RBI. Keith DeHollander came in for Robbins and singled to left for an RBI followed by a nice walk to Franco after working the count to 3-2. Austin Piscotty subbed-in and smashed a 2-RBI double to left watching the ball land around the 310′ mark. Brian Hsu grounded out and DJ returned to rip a 2-RBI double to left. Vincent’s second at bat this inning yielded a walk, then Brad Pluschkell singled to left to load the bases. Sprugasci then ended the inning hitting into a double play. This 9-run, 10-hit inning resulted in a 20 – 4 lead for TVBR.

David Gomez at bat

With our bench players driving the score, coaches made some major swaps. DJ got a break from catching and went to left; Franco replaced Robbins at 3rd, DeHollander got shortstop, Pluschkell to 2B, Soltis to 1B, Spru shifted over to center and Vincent went to right; Nathan stayed on the bump. Despite the devestating lead, Kentucky did not let up and the lead-off took Nathan deep with a solid hit to left of center – only one problem: one of our fastest players, Spru, was shifted to center, who jumped on his horse and sprinted to make an over-the-shoulder running catch. Nathan struck out #23 after going to a full count, let #38 squirt a basehit to centerfield, then induced #15 to a grounder straight to first base for an easy force.

The top of the fifth required offensive restraint on the bases as a matter of courtesy at this point. Soltis reached after getting beaned, then DeHollander singled to left, followed by Franco flying out to center. Piscotty singled to center to load the bases, but Nathan popped-up for infield fly rule out and DJ ended the inning with a strike-out that looked curiously on-purpose.

With only 3 outs to win a mercy-rule shortened game, Pluschkell took the bump and quickly saw his lead-off batter hit into a fairly routine grounder to DeHollander at short, however his throw short-hopped a little wide to Soltis and went past him to the fence. The runner taking any advantage possible sprinted to second, where Soltis’ laser shot reached Franco covering the bag for the tag out. Pluschkell then struck out the second and third batters for the save. Final score 20 – 4 with TVBR out-hitting Lexington 24 hits to their 7.

Each game, one player from each team is selected for Player of the Game honors. Yesterday Noah Robbins was awarded the honor and today, Josh Sprugasci accepted his with the announcer adding that Josh tied the Babe Ruth World Series record for most hits in a game (4). Congratulations, Noah and Josh – Way To Go!

Tri-Valley Beats Williamsport, PA in Opener

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Opening Ceremonies at Fireman's Field

Today was a beautiful day for a ball game under partly cloudly skies dropping temperatures to the mid-80’s. Our series opener was against Williamsport, PA who won the Mid-Atlantic regional championships. Jake Dronkers had the starting role on the hill. The game started on-time after the National Anthem was sung by a wonderful young lady and the Babe Ruth oath was read.

Although TVBR pitchers take command early, it was Williamsport who started the fireworks early. The first two batters reached on basehits, followed by a walk to load the bases. The clean-up hitter sacraficed with a bunt to score their first run before Dronkers could zero-in on the umpire’s small zone, getting the next two batters out on swinging strikes.

The coaches told the boys that every team in our flight was tough, so Tri-Valley didn’t waste any time to “win back” the inning. Josh Sprugasci (CF) led-off knocking a deep single to center field, followed by an RBI triple by Casey Soltis (1B) hitting a rocket to the 375 mark in center. Dronkers (P) batting 3rd was hit in the thigh on the first pitch and trotted to first, with Noah Robbins (3B) hitting a Texas Leaguer to shallow center plating Soltis and moving Dronkers to 2nd. Ryan Anderson (LF) walked but not before seeing Dronkers and Robbins move up 1 base each on a wild pitch. With bases loaded, Austin Piscotty (2B) walked on a full-count to force another run and this paused the game for Williamsport to install a new pitcher, #16.

Despite the fresh arm, Shawn Vincent (RF) took an 0-1 pitch down the left field line for a 2 RBI single. Danny Jackson (C) struck out, but Cam Santos (SS) bunted and beat the throw for a single to load the bases again. Sprugasci returned to the batter’s box for the second time in the same inning and mashed a high pop-up to shallow center that dropped-in for an RBI single. Soltis’ second AB didn’t go as far as his first hit, hitting into a double play to end the inning. TVBR 6 – 1.

Falli Family - hosts for Ryan, Cam and Jake

The 2nd inning was more like Tri-Valley’s style over the past several games since post-season play started with Dronkers only needing 8 pitches and stellar defense retiring the side 1-2-3. #16 popped-up to Austin Piscotty (2B), followed by #23 grounding toward 2B forcing Santos to quickly range glove-side to field and throw to first for out number 2. The third hitter, #3, grounded sharply to Robbins at third who scooped the ball and fired to first for the 3rd out.

Dronkers led-off the bottom of the 2nd with a ground out to 2nd, with Robbins hitting safely to center for a single. Anderson tallied his first hit with a monster smash to deep center for an RBI triple. Piscotty followed with a nice 1-2 count RBI sacrafice to plate Anderson tagging-up from third. Vincent grounded out to short stop to end the inning. TVBR 8 – 1.

Williamsport fought back in the 3rd putting a basehit between 3rd and short by #26, followed by a fielder’s choice by #12 getting the out at 2nd. Dronkers attempted a quick pick-off throw to first, but it hit the deck and squirted by Soltis advancing the runner to 2B. Dronkers then swatted at a comebacker to the mound that knocked his glove off allowing an infield single. #6 stepped up and hit a sharp single to center for an RBI, but #27 took his hit directly into a double play – Piscotty to Santos to Soltis to end the inning.

With a new pitcher on the mound (#8) for Williamsport, DJ worked his count for a walk and Santos following with a bunt down the first baseline. With the first baseman charging and the pitcher covering 1, Santos collided with the pitcher’s foot on the plate-side of the bag causing Santos to summersault over the bag. Despite what looked to be a nasty ankle injury, Cam got up and trotted to the dugout. Sprugasci then took the box with DJ at 2nd and hit into a fielder’s choice which advanced DJ to 3rd. DJ then scored on a pitch getting past the catcher with Soltis at the plate, who eventually flied out to left. TVBR 9 – 2.

The first two hitters for Williamsport reached on consecutive basehits to start the 4th, but #25 hit a weak grounder to Dronkers who initiated another double play – Dronkers to Santos to Soltis. Dronkers then induced #8 into a 4-pitch strikeout for the third out.

Dronkers led off with another ground-out, followed by Robbins 3rd straight basehit to center. Anderson fouled out to 1st and Piscotty drew a walk but not before Robbins stole 2B and advanced to 3rd on a passed ball. With runners at 1st and 3rd, Piscotty got the sign to steal 2B in hopes of plating Robbins on the razzle dazzle, but the intentional pickle between 2nd and 1st tagged Piscotty for the 3rd out before Robbins could reach home. TVBR 9 – 2.

The top of 5 started and ended quickly with #2 hitting a pop-up to 1st and #12 hitting a dying swan fly in front of Kyle Franco (LF) who turned on his wheels running toward the infield to make the out. #6 grounded out to the 1st base hole with Dronkers covering the bag. Williamsport got the upper-hand on TVBR retiring the side 1-2-3 and ending the inning with the score 9 -2 TVBR.

David Gomez was inserted at right field to lead the 6th inning. Dronkers still on the hill approaching the mid-70’s pitch count watched #7 hit a basehit to center, followed by a strikeout to #24. #16 roped a single to left and a passed ball advanced runners to 2nd and 3rd for #22, who then hit an RBI single to left. #8 then struck out after receiving 7 pitches. #2 walked with 4 straight balls, but Dronkers found the target and struck out the last batter looking with bases loaded.

Another explosive inning for TVBR added several insurance runs. Sprugasci led off with a walk on 4 straight, which caused Williamsport to insert #22 on the bump. After his warm-ups, Sprugasci took off for 2nd but the catcher’s throw went through the shortstop and 2nd baseman into center allowing Josh to motor to 3rd. Soltis then took a 1-1 pitch high up to shallow center for an RBI basehit. Keith DeHollander stepping in for Dronkers struck out with Soltis advancing to 2nd. Robbins hit into a fielder’s choice, but saw Soltis go to 3rd. Franco’s first at-bat hit a routine grounder to short, but a hard-90 effort gave him a single and an RBI. Franco advanced to 2nd on a bad pick-off throw with Brad Pluschkell at the plate. A passed ball put Franco on 3rd, but Pluschkell grounded out to end the innging. TVBR 11 – 3.

Brian Hsu came in to close the game and made short work of Williamsport with his fresh arm. The lead-off took an 0-2 pitch to right for what appeared to be an routine basehit, but a charging Sprugasci scooped and gunned the ball to Dronkers covering first for the out and stunned #26. #6 struck out for the 2nd out and a grounder to Robbins almost saw a basehit but a sharp recovery on the bobbled ball and a good stretch by Dronkers was rewarded with the game-ending 3rd out. TVBR 11, Williamsport 3.

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