By Andrew Cooney
The Sliders staged two separate rallies and held off the Hot Wings in the seventh inning to win 10-9 in an NVCL semifinal matchup yesterday at Madison High School. The win sends the Sliders to the championship game on Saturday against the top-seeded Night Owls. The teams split their two regular season matchups.
The Hot Wings got on the board first with a long three-run home run to center field by Avery Neaves (Chesapeake) in the top of the first inning. The Sliders responded in the bottom half putting up two runs of their own as Donovan Burke (JMU) of the Hot Wings had trouble finding the strike zone early. Conor Hartigan (JMU) hit a two-run homer for the Hot Wings in the top of the third inning to extend the lead to 5-2. The score would remain until the bottom of the fourth when the Sliders got two runs back on a two-run single from Tyler Casagrande (Arizona) off Hot Wings reliever Patrick Burke (Mount St. Mary’s).
Leading off the bottom of the fifth, Scott Morgan (George Mason) and Tyler DeMartino (West Virginia) hit back-to-back home runs to stake the Sliders to their first lead of the game, 6-5. The home run by Morgan was his second in as many games. The Hot Wings responded immediately in the top of the sixth on a three-run shot to right field by Ryan Dooley (VMI) that gave the Hot Wings the lead right back at 8-6.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Sliders rallied once again, scoring four runs against reliever Pete Nielsen (George Mason), punctuated by a two-run double from Jack Hoeymans (Undecided) and a two-run single from Morgan (George Mason).
“[Scott] has just been seeing the ball well, he puts good swings on balls, he’s not trying to do too much,” said Sliders coach Dan Ritz.
Avery Neaves (Chesapeake) made things interesting in the top of the seventh, hitting a solo shot out to left field for his second home run of the game and narrowing the gap to 10-9. However, Sliders reliever Michael Schultz (College of Charleston) would retire two of the next three batters to end the game.
“This is the best we’ve swung the bat all year,” said Morgan. “If we keep pounding the zone and swinging the bats like we have been we’re a tough team to beat.”
When asked about Saturday’s championship matchup with the Night Owls, Ritz said, “It’s going to be a tough game, they can swing it one through 10. For us, it’s all about throwing strikes. When we throw strikes, stay ahead of batters, we’ll be able to stay in the game. We are going to have to keep fighting offensively like we did tonight. We had a lot of big at bats, key situations, down in the count, and they battled through and just found a way to get it done.”
Saturday’s championship game is scheduled for Waters Field with a time to be set due to incoming weather. The Night Owls and Sliders have been the top two teams in the league all season and will now get a chance to battle for the title in the inaugural NVCL season.
Photo of Scott Morgan courtesy of Fred Ingham