By Josh Belanger
Six different players hit home runs and Jared Dingus recorded a six-out save, escaping from a bases-loaded jam in the top of the eighth to lead the Night Owls to a 9-6 win over the Sliders in the inaugural NVCL championship game at Waters Field.
The Night Owls faced an early deficit for the third straight game after Tyler Casagrande (Arizona) put the Sliders ahead with a two-run home run in the first inning off starter Randy Prosperi (William & Mary). Prosperi would allow a third run on a bases loaded walk to Dominic Ragazzo (West Virginia) but avoided further damage with a ground out in the first.
Michael Grupe (Virginia Tech) made his sixth start of the summer for the Sliders and held the Night Owls scoreless in two of the first three innings. Lucas Donlon (Virginia Tech) started the long ball parade for the Night Owls with a solo shot to lead off the second. Carter Cunningham (East Carolina) followed with another solo homer later in the inning, his ninth of the season.
After the Sliders added three runs on RBI from Casagrande, Justin Ritz (Mary Washington) and Ben Williamson (William & Mary), the Night Owls answered with three runs of their own on a two-run shot from Rob Weissheier (Hofstra) and an RBI from Ethan Rothstein (James Madison). Weissheier was the league’s most dangerous hitter all season long, finishing with 15 home runs and 36 RBI with a .431 batting average in 20 games.
Yareb Martinez (Georgetown) and Austin Gauthier (Hofstra) both hit solo homers in the fifth to give the Night Owls a 7-6 lead. The home run from Gauthier was his fourth in as many games and the final pitch for Grupe, who was relieved by Braden Mack (Cornell). Mack allowed two runs on three hits with five strikeouts in 3.1 innings out of the bullpen.
“We have been down these whole playoffs and we never give up,” Martinez said. “Sal has made that our mentality. We don’t swing for the fences but we sure hit a lot of home runs.”
Reliever Danny Checkosky (Roanoke), who entered the game in the fourth for the Night Owls, allowed just two hits over four scoreless innings. After Checkosky hit the lead-off man in the eighth, Dingus (Potomac State) came on in relief and proceeded to allow a hit and a walk after a strikeout to load the bases. Facing the top of the Sliders’ lineup with the game on the line and one out, the right-hander retired Willamson on a line out and Casagrande on a ground ball to end the inning.
“Great players step up when they need to,” coach Sal Colangelo said. “It was a total team effort.”
The Night Owls picked up a couple of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth on a two-run shot from Matt Thomas (William & Mary). The home run was the Night Owls 39th hit this summer.
Dingus came back out for the ninth and retired three of four batters to put the finishing touches on the Night Owls’ championship win. The Night Owls won eight straight games to close out an 18-2 season.
Photos of Lucas Donlon & Night Owls courtesy of Fred Ingham
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
Jack Hoeymans hit a two-run home run in the second inning and provided an insurance run in the seventh with his third hit of the game to power the Sliders to a 3-1 win over the first-place Night Owls last night at Waters Field.
Hoeymans (undecided) went up the middle with all three of his hits, featuring a balanced approach that has helped him be one of the Sliders’ most productive hitters to start the season. The McLean native enters the weekend now tied with Ben Williamson (William & Mary) for the team lead in hits, home runs and RBI.
“[Hoeymans] is a kid looking for a place to play and he has had some of the best at-bats I have seen all year, consistently in all five games,” said coach Rob Hahne. “I’d say every time he is up to the plate I feel pretty confident.”
The Night Owls entered the night undefeated in league play and ranking first in several offensive categories including runs, batting average and home runs. Starter Garret Newsome (William & Mary) and relievers Michael Schultz (College of Charleston) and Braden Mack (Cornell) held the Night Owls to just one run on five hits.
Schultz earned the win after coming on in relief of Newsome with two outs in the third and proceeded to allow just one hit over 3.2 innings, inducing seven ground ball outs. Newsome finished the game with five strikeouts over two innings while Mack needed just 22 pitches to record the final four outs.
“They did a good job of mixing it up and keeping those guys off-balanced. They pumped strikes when they needed to and had great command,” Hahne said. “That’s a really good offense and those guys did a really good job coming after them.”
Lucas Donlon (Virginia Tech) delivered a first inning RBI to give the Night Owls an early lead, but would be the only extra-base hit for his team. Donlon has now driven in a run in each of the Night Owls five games, extending his season total to nine.
Danny Checkosky (Roanoke) took the loss after allowing two runs on two hits over three innings. Reliever Jack Braley (Christopher Newport) tossed two scoreless innings in relief with four strikeouts for the Night Owls.
The Sliders (2-3) will take on the Gators in a doubleheader Saturday at Waters Field while the Night Owls (4-1) will face the Rough Riders Saturday in a twin bill at Madison High School.
In other league action…Thomas Latham (Holy Cross) drove in a pair of runs and O’Kelley McWilliams (Wofford) struck out six over 2.2 innings to lead the Rough Riders (4-1) to a 3-2 win over the Yard Dogs (2-3). Kyle Lewis (Marymount) also had a strong outing for the Rough Riders, tossing 2.1 scoreless innings in relief…The Hot Wings (2-3) beat the Chili Dogs (1-4), 4-0, behind a pair of RBI from Trevon Dabney (James Madison) and a two-run home run from Avery Neaves (Chesapeake). Donovan Burke (James Madison) started on the mound and struck out four over three scoreless frames...Eddie Eissert (NC State) went 3-for-4 with a pair of runs and an RBI while Jack Cone (William & Mary) reached base all three times from the lead-off spot to pace the Bunt Cakes (3-2) to an 8-0 win over the Gators (2-3). Nathan Cmeyla (Dartmouth) also drove in a pair of runs for the Bunt Cakes. Eissert and Jay Cassady (Christopher Newport) combined for six scoreless innings on the mound, allowing just three hits.
Photo of Jack Hoeymans by Josh Belanger