By Josh Belanger
No team hit more home runs than the Night Owls this season. In fact, no team hit more home runs than the 23 hit by Austin Gauthier, Carter Cunningham and Rob Weissheier. All three hit home runs again in yesterday’s semifinal to help the Night Owls erase a four-run deficit and knock off the Bunt Cakes, 11-7, to advance to Saturday’s NVCL championship.
Jack Cone (William & Mary) could not have given the Bunt Cakes a better start, hitting a home run on the first at-bat of the game and then shutting down the Night Owls in order in the first inning. Jay Cassady (Christopher Newport) would follow with a two run homer in the second to stake a 3-0 lead for the Bunt Cakes.
The Night Owls got the board in the bottom of the second on a heads up hustle play from both Aiden Tierney (Longwood) and Cunningham (Florida Southwestern State). After Cunningham singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch with two outs, Tierney beat out a slow ground ball to the shortstop and allowed Cunningham to score from second.
The Bunt Cakes would add two more runs in the third on RBI from Alex Lemery (Marymount) and Will Bean (West Virginia). Lemery finished the season on fire, hitting safely in 10 of his last 11 games (including postseason) and ending the season with a .432 batting average.
Trailing 5-1, the Night Owls offense came alive for six runs in the third behind a two-run shot from Gautheir (Hofstra) and a three-run bomb from Cunningham that grabbed the lead. Gauthier would extend the Night Owls lead in the fourth on a sacrifice fly.
Cone hit his second home run of the game, a two-run shot that landed high in the tree past the center field fence, to bring his team within a run. But, the bats for the Night Owls remained relentless, answering yet again with a two-run homer from Weissheier (Hofstra) in the bottom half. Garrett Riley (Potomac State) added on with an RBI in the sixth.
“We just told them to play every pitch, every inning, every at-bat,” said Night Owls coach Sal Colangelo. “This [summer] is about getting better. It’s about working on your craft, perfecting your craft and having a good time and having some memories forever. That’s what we instill in them. They are not going to quit. They could be down 20 on Saturday and they are not going to quit. I won’t let them quit, that’s not in our nature.”
Jack Braley (Christopher Newport) started for the Night Owls and battled over four innings despite not having his best stuff. The right-hander allowed five runs through the first three innings but provided a scoreless fourth inning on the heels of the Night Owls six-run third that proved to be the turning point in the game. Jarrod Schmitz (Marymount) tossed the final three innings for the Night Owls, allowing just one run on three hits.
“It wasn’t one of [Jack’s] best outings but he competed for us,” Colangelo said. “We felt if we could get Cone’s pitch count up and keep it close, whoever they were bringing in we could score five, six, seven runs. That has been the strategy.”
The Night Owls will take on the Sliders in the NVCL Championship on Saturday. Both teams finished atop the NVCL standings and split their two games during the regular season. Randy Prosperi (Williamd & Mary) and Jared Dingus (Potomac State) are the likely pitchers for the Night Owls.
Photo of Carter Cunningham courtesy of Fred Ingham
By Josh Belanger
Kyle Novak and Conor Hartigan (James Madison) both delivered clutch hits in the bottom of the seventh inning to cap a three-run rally and advance the Hot Wings to the NVCL semifinals after a 4-3 victory over the Rough Riders in yesterday’s quarterfinal matchup at Madison High School.
The Hot Wings were down to their final three outs and needed two runs to keep their season alive. After a fielder’s choice brought home a run, Novak tied the game with his third hit of the game. Tre Dabney (James Madison) followed with a walk then Hartigan worked a 3-2 count to allow Novak to break on the pitch. A ground ball in between the third baseman and shortstop allowed Novak to easily score and provide the game-winning run.
O’Kelley McWilliams (Wofford) started for the Rough Riders and held the Hot Wings to one run on three hits over 3.2 innings. Everett Catlett (Georgetown) went for the Hot Wings and allowed an unearned run while striking out six over 2.2 innings. Robert Kelley (Potomac State) ended up with the win after tossing two scoreless innings in relief for the Hot Wings.
Brendan Albrittain (Radford) hit a solo home run to put the Rough Riders up 3-1 in the fifth inning. Ethan Martoske (Lynchburg) also added an RBI double for the Rough Riders.
Quarterfinal #2 - Sliders 11, Yard Dogs 2
Michael Grupe (Virginia Tech) and Braden Mack (Cornell) combined to allow just one run on six hits over seven innings while Jack Hoeymans (undecided) and Scott Morgan (George Mason) each homered and drove in a pair of runs to lead the Sliders over the Yard Dogs.
The Sliders pounded 15 hits as both Tyler Casagrande (Arizona) and Griffin Boone (VCU) each added three hits. Derek Furr (Christopher Newport) also had a three-run double that broke the game open in the fifth inning. Brendan Hall (Washington University, MO) collected two of the six hits for the Yard Dogs.
The Hot Wings and Sliders will square off at 6 PM today for a chance to advance to Saturday’s championship game. The teams split their two games this season, with the Sliders winning the first game 6-1. The Hot Wings took game two, 11-3.
Garret Newsome (William & Mary) for the Sliders and Donavan Burke (James Madison) for the Hot Wings are the likely starting pitchers.
Quarterfinal #3 - Night Owls 7, Child Dogs 6
The top-seeded Night Owls avoided an early departure from the NVCL tournament by scoring seven runs over their final three frames to beat the Chilli Dogs, 7-6. Yareb Martinez (Georgetown) had the go-ahead RBI while Jonathan Fisher (Christopher Newport) added a critical insurance run with a base hit in the bottom of the sixth.
The Chili Dogs wouldn’t go quietly, getting an RBI on Ben Koomey’s (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) second hit of the game. The tying and go-ahead runs would eventually reach scoring position but reliever Randy Prosperi (William & Mary) was able to come on and get the final two outs of the game.
Aiden Tierney (Longwood) added an RBI double and two hits while Austin Gauthier (Hofstra) hit his fourth home run of the season, his second in two games. Brady Harju (James Madison) collected four hits while Jack Fitzgerald (George Mason) hit a three-run home run for the Chili Dogs.
Quarterfinal #4 - Bunt Cakes 9, Gators 1
Jay Cassidy (Christopher Newport) struck out five over 5.2 innings and allowed just one run on three hits to guide the Bunt Cakes past the Gators and into the semifinals. Jack Cone (William & Mary) and Nathan Cmeyla (Dartmouth) each homered and combined for seven RBI to power the Bunt Cakes.
The Bunt Cakes will face the Night Owls in the first semifinal game at 3:30 PM at Waters Field. The Night Owls went 3-0 against the Bunt Cakes this season. Jack Braley (Christopher Newport) for the Night Owls and Cone for the Bunt Cakes are the likely starting pitchers.
Photo of Kyle Novak by Josh Belanger
By Josh Belanger
The NVCL will begin its highly anticipated playoff tournament Wednesday night with the league-leading Night Owls entering as the top seed and apparent favorite to win the league championship.
The Night Owls (15-2) ran away with the regular season title, clinching by four games over the second-place Sliders (11-6). Powered by their juggernaut lineup, the Night Owls lead the league with 153 runs (nine runs per game) and 29 home runs - 13 of them coming off the bat of first baseman Rob Weissheier. Weissheier is tops in the league in home runs, RBI (32), runs (25) and OPS (1.940).
Lucas Donlon is one of several other weapons in the Night Owls’ murderous row of sluggers. The third baseman leads the league with 25 hits and ranks third with 22 RBI. He also added seven doubles and a home run to his campaign. Carter Cunningham is another player to watch for the Night Owls, finishing the season with seven homers and 21 RBI.
The Night Owls don’t appear to have any real weaknesses in their lineup, batting .329 with an on-base percentage of .453 as a collective unit. Not to mention, they have five players with an OPS north of 1.000. Pitchers, good luck!
The Night Owls rotation is headed by right-hander Nick Stewart (4 wins, 1.42 ERA), who has been one of the league's most consistent arms all season allowing just four runs in 19.1 innings. Randy Prosperi (2 wins, 2.80 ERA) and Jack Braley (2 wins, 2.33 ERA) have also been reliable options for the Night Owls.
It will be interesting to see how coach Sal Colangelo manages the tournament and who he decides to pitch in the quarterfinals against the 4-13 Chili Dogs. I anticipate Stewart being saved until Thursday, however as a wise coach once said, “Never save a pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it may rain.” Or may never come.
There may not be a lineup that can match up toe-for-toe against the Night Owls, but on any given night anything can happen. The Sliders and Hot Wings (10-7) both pose serious threats to take down the Night Owls with deep lineups and pitching staffs while the Bunt Cakes (9-8) enter the tournament playing their best ball of the season, having won five of their last seven games.
The potential to have the Bunt Cakes left-hander Jay Cassidy (3 wins, 1.27 ERA) square off against the Night Owls sets up for a thrilling semifinal game. That’s all assuming the Night Owls survive their match-up with the Chili Dogs, who have lined up Wes Glass (3 wins, 17 K) and Danny Leo (1.07 WHIP) to pitch, and the Bunt Cakes advance without throwing their ace.
Michael Grupe (3 wins, 2.21 ERA) for the Sliders and Everett Catlett (30 K, 3.56 ERA) for the Hot Wings also promises an exciting semifinal if both teams can win on Wednesday. Grupe or Garret Newsome (18 K, 2.26 ERA) will likely take the mound for the Sliders while Kenny Lippman (21 K, 1.05 WHIP) will likely start for the Hot Wings in the quarterfinals. The Hot Wings do have the option to pitch Catlett, who last threw 56 pitches over 2.2 innings on Saturday.
In terms of the rest of the field, the Gators (5-10-1), Yard Dogs (6-11) and Rough Riders (5-10-1) all have what it takes to upset their higher-seeded opponents and advance to Thursday’s semifinals. Hunter Bell (0.88 WHIP) and Antonio Menendez (21 K, 2.33 ERA) will both likely pitch for the Gators and Yard Dogs respectively, presenting tough obstacles for their opponents. The Gators and Yard Dogs also combined for four homers and 19 runs in their final game of the season.
The Yard Dogs will lean on the league’s leading hitter Michael Ludowig (3 HR, .489 BA) and Brady Drawbaugh (6 HR) to pace the offense against the Sliders, who have allowed the fewest runs this season (67). Eric Lingebach (5 HR, 28 RBI) and Justin Taylor (2 HR, .457 BA) will need to continue their production for the Rough Riders if they are to upset the Hot Wings.
The Rough Riders ace O’Kelley McWilliams (3 wins, 19 K, 2.04 ERA) pitched Monday night and will most likely not be available for tomorrow’s quarterfinal games. Rough Riders coach Tom Verbanic will likely lean on Brendan Albrittain (14 K, 1.08 WHIP) and Ryan Dudak (16.1 IP) for the bulk of their innings on Wednesday.
In the final day of the regular season, all four games were decided by one run including an extra-innings thriller between the Gators and Chili Dogs and a walk-off win for the Night Owls. Along with the back-and-forth contests, yesterday also saw plenty of power with nine home runs being smashed. If the last day of the regular season was a taste of what we are to see during the playoffs, you can count me in for the full course and dessert.
The NVCL playoffs will be more of what we have been seeing all month long: competitive baseball featuring power bats, electric arms and incredible defense. If you cannot make it out to Madison High School or Waters Field in Vienna, you can tune in to watch a live stream of all the games at nvcl.sportschannel.media. The playoff tournament will be single elimination with the championship game being played as a nine-inning game. The full schedule is listed below:
Wednesday, July 29th - Quarterfinals
- G1- Chili Dogs (8) vs Night Owls (1) at 4:30 pm at Waters Field
- G2- Gators (5) vs Bunt Cakes (4) at 7:30 pm at Waters Field
- G4- Rough Riders (6) vs Hot Wings (3) at 4:30 pm at Madison HS (may get moved to 2 pm)
- G3- Yard Dogs (7) vs Sliders (2) at 7:30 pm at Madison HS (may get moved to 5 pm)
* If lights aren't working at Madison HS by Tuesday evening, we will move games up to 2 pm and 5 pm at MHS
* Higher seed is home team
Thursday, July 30th - Semifinals
- G5- 4:30 pm at Waters- Winner of G1 vs Winner of G2
- G6- 7:30 pm at Waters- Winner of G3 vs Winner of G4
Saturday, August 1 - Championship
- 11 am at Waters- Winner of G5 vs Winner of G6 (9 innings)
* Regular extra inning rules for Championship Game only. No international rules.
Photo of Rob Weissheier courtesy of Fred Ingham
By Josh Belanger
Austin Gauthier (Hofstra) delivered a game-winning, walk-off base hit in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Night Owls a 9-8 victory over the Bunt Cakes yesterday at Waters Field.
Reliever Jarrod Schmitz (Marymount) sent the game to extra innings with a strikeout after coming on for the Night Owls with the game tied and two outs in the seventh. In the eighth, both teams would place runners in scoring position to start the inning. Schmitz proceeded with two more strikeouts to set the table for the Night Owls win in the bottom half.
Tyler Gauthier (undecided) started on the mound for the Night Owls and allowed three runs on five hits over three innings. Randy Prosperi (William & Mary) came on in the fourth after the Night Owls took a 4-3 lead and tossed two scoreless innings. The Night Owls extended their lead with four runs in the fifth on two-run homers from Aiden Tierney (Longwood) and Garrett Riley (Potomac State).
The combination of Matt Thomas (William & Mary), Lucas Donlon (Virginia Tech) and Rob Weissheier (Hofstra) have done serious damage against league pitching all season long, batting a combined .440 with 12 home runs and 52 RBI. Last night, the Bunt Cakes held the mighty trio to just one hit, but the Night Owls found a way to manufacture runs early and lean on some different players for production late.
“You are not always going to hit the ball out of the ballpark,” Night Owls manager Sal Colangelo said. “Tonight we weren’t hitting the ball out of the ballpark and we had to really gear down and execute and we did and it went our way.”
Trailing 8-3 heading into the sixth inning, the Bunt Cakes rallied for five runs against Prosperi, who entered the game leading the league in WHIP. Jay Cassidy (Christopher Newport) drove in a run on a double while Malik Kabra (William & Mary) and Fitz Halloran (Lynchburg) each had an RBI in the sixth. In the seventh, Nathan Cmeyla (Dartmouth) hit a clutch, two-run home run off the scoreboard in left field to tie the game at eight.
Cmeyla led the way offensively for the Bunt Cakes with a 3-for-3 effort and three RBI. Cassidy, Bobby Lietzel (Marymount) and Alex Lemery (Marymount) also each had multiple hits as the Bunt Cakes out-hit the opposition 12-to-10 but conversely allowed 13 free passes on walks and hit-by-pitches.
The Night Owls (12-2) will complete their suspended game from Tuesday against the Yard Dogs tonight at Waters Field while the Bunt Cakes (7-7) prepare for a doubleheader against the Sliders on Saturday.
In other league action...the Rough Riders (6-7-1) crushed the Chili Dogs (4-10), 12-2, behind a three-run home run from Colin Troilo (Eastern Mennonite) and a pair of RBI from Brendan Albrittain (Radford). O’Kelly McWilliams (Wofford) earned the win after allowing one run on two hits over three innings. Albrittain and Ethan Marotske (Lynchburg) each tossed a scoreless inning in relief for the Rough Riders. Brady Harju (James Madison) homered in the loss for the Chili Dogs...Both 7:30 games between the Sliders (8-6) and Yard Dogs (4-9) and Hot Wings (7-6) and Gators (5-8-1) were postponed.
Photo of Austin Gauthier by Josh Belanger
By Josh Belanger
Zach Buck homered and sparked an eight-run sixth inning for the Hot Wings that led to a 12-1 victory over the Bunt Cakes last night at Waters Field.
Buck (Haverford) hit back-to-back home runs with Pete Nielsen (George Mason) to give the Hot Wings the lead in the second inning. Hitting in the sixth and seventh spots in the order, Nielsen and Buck went a combined 5-for-6, scored three times and drove in three runs. Bryce Johnson (Camp CC) also was productive at the bottom of the order for the Hot Wings with two hits and a pair of RBI.
“Anytime you can get production one through 10, that’s a good recipe for a win,” Hot Wings coach Morgan Spencer said. “A lot of these guys were high school players that missed their entire senior year that are seeing some pretty good college pitching, so there is always a learning curve but hope we are getting going at the right time.”
Left-hander Everett Catlett (Georgetown) started for the Hot Wings and allowed one run on three hits over three plus innings. Catlett also added five more strikeouts to his season total, which now sits at a league-best 20.
Ryan Dooley (VMI) added to the Hot Wings lead in the third with an RBI triple. The Bunt Cakes answered with a run of their own in the fourth after two hits and a fielder’s choice RBI from Nathan Cmyela (Dartmouth). In the fifth inning, Johnson delivered a sac fly to extend the Hot Wings lead 4-1.
Buck's third hit of the game would score a run and start a rally in the sixth inning for the Hot Wings. Jake Wortman followed with a pinch-hit bases-clearing double and later scored on another RBI from Johnson. Kyle Novak (James Madison) then put the game out of reach with a three-run home run to cap the inning.
“Our guys are starting to come together,” Spencer said. “Earlier in the season our guys were a little long and maybe trying to see how far they could hit the ball. Lately, our guys have been short and using the middle of the field. Hopefully we are getting hot at the right time.”
Catlett earned the win for the Hot Wings as Kenny Lippman (Denison), Ethan Snyder (William & Mary) and Jack Slade (Harford CC) did not allow a run in relief over the final four innings.
The Hot Wings (5-5) head into their weekend doubleheader with the 9-1 Night Owls having won two straight games while the Bunt Cakes (4-6) will look to snap their three-game losing streak against the Yard Dogs.
In other league action...Matt Thomas (William & Mary) and Lucas Donlon (Virginia Tech) each drove in a pair of runs while Nick Stewart (James Madison) allowed one hit and one run over 3.1 innings to earn his third win of the season in the Night Owls (9-1) 9-3 win over the Gators (3-7)…The Sliders (6-4) beat the Rough Riders (5-5), 12-4, behind a grand slam from Kyle Lyons (Bucknell) and a two-run blast from Tyler Casagrande (Arizona). Michael Grupe (Virginia Tech) got the win after allowing four unearned runs on five hits over 3.1 innings… The Yard Dogs (4-6) pounded 18 hits and beat the Bunt Cakes (4-6), 19-8. Jonathan Rivard (Virginia Tech), Alec Roberts (Allen CC), Brady Drawbaugh (Mount St. Mary’s) and Jaden Keuhner (Washington & Lee) each homered for the Yard Dogs.
Photo of Zach Buck by Josh Belanger
By Andrew Cooney
Justin Taylor was a top selection in the draft for this year’s inaugural NVCL season, and he proved why that was the case in the Rough Riders 11-9 victory over the Bunt Cakes last night at Waters Field.
In just his first week back from a shoulder injury, Taylor (Cornell) threw out a runner at the plate from center field, launched his second home run of the season and had the game-tying hit with a two-run single in a six-run seventh inning for the Rough Riders. The win snapped a two-game losing streak and propelled the Rough Riders to sole possession of second place behind the league-leading Night Owls.
“When [Taylor] came back he had four hits in a row to start,” said Rough Riders manager Tom Verbanic. “He is that guy and when he walks out here you see he’s a freak athlete and he just changes everything.”.
Jay Cassady (Christopher Newport) provided a remarkable start on the mound for the Bunt Cakes, striking out seven over five innings and only surrendering one earned run on two hits. The Bunt Cakes appeared to have the game in control after Alex Lemery (Marymount) smacked a two-run double to give the Bunt Cakes a 5-1 lead in the fifth inning.
However, the Rough Riders struck back with six runs in the top of the seventh on RBI base hits from Taylor, Drew Caroline (Christopher Newport), John Heltebran (Louisburg) and Justin Carboni (Pennsylvania).
The Bunt Cakes scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to push the game to extra innings where a three-run homer from Thomas Latham (Holy Cross) proved to be the deciding blow for the Rough Riders. Latham has now driven in seven runs in his last four games.
“One thing you know, especially with these kids, is that you’re never really out of a game so to speak,” said Verbanic. “All of a sudden you’re in a game, you could be down six and be in a game in a heartbeat.”
The Rough Riders (5-3) will take on the Chili Dogs today at Madison High School while the Bunt Cakes (4-4) will face the first-place Night Owls at Waters Field.
In other league action...Jack Hoeymans (undecided) and Connor Baine (George Mason) both had two hits and combined for three RBI to lead the Sliders (4-4) to a 6-1 win over the Hot Wings (3-5). Garrett Newsome (William & Mary) and Michael Schultz (College of Charleston) combined to throw seven innings of five hit ball, giving up one run. Ryan Dooley (VMI) had two hits and an RBI for the Hot Wings… Nicholas Ortega (Elizabethtown College) and Eric Parnell (Mary Washington) combined to strike out five in the Chili Dogs (3-5) 4-1 win over the Gators (3-5). Will Salva (Roanoke) and Trey Haley (Case Western Reserve) led the Chili Dogs offense with two hits apiece. Shane Dux (Hamilton) chipped in two hits for the Gators as Colby Shriner (Christopher Newport) was tacked with the loss… Yareb Martinez (Georgetown) had the game-winning hit in extra innings as the Night Owls (7-1) nipped the Yard Dogs (3-5) 9-8. Ryan McElligott (Marymount) started for the Night Owls and went four innings, giving up two hits. Michael Ludowig (Wake Forest), Caden DeCroo (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), Jonathan Rivard (Virginia Tech) and Dylan Saale (Longwood) all had multiple hits in the loss.
Photo of Thomas Latham by Josh Belanger