By John Leonard of All Things Valley League
In an unprecedented matchup of three of the top summer league teams in the nation, the Vienna Senators of the Clark Griffith League traveled to Luray to play a doubleheader against the two best teams in the Valley League, the Waynesboro Generals and Luray Wranglers. Vienna is ranked #1 in the nation by PG Crosschecker, while Luray is #5, and Waynesboro is #11.
Initiated by Vienna 8 days ago, the Wrangler ownership and volunteers worked feverishly to prepare for the event. “I’m blessed with the best volunteers in the world,” said Luray owner Bill Turner before the games. “It’s been a lot of work, but we’re ready. We’re feeding all the teams barbecue chicken; everyone’s getting fed, it’s just going to be a fun day. The competition is going to be great, but this is all fun. This is the true meaning of summer league- a fun day.”
Game One: Vienna vs. Waynesboro
The buzzword for game one was “pitching.” By the end of the regulation 9 innings, not a single run had crossed the plate. The starters, Vienna’s Ryan Wooley (Georgia) and Waynesboro’s Daniel Bradshaw (LSU), combined for 12 shutout innings, and allowed only 9 hits, 0 walks, and struck out 11. The closest either team came to scoring was in the 3rd inning, when the Senator’s Nick Boullosa (Tulane) was thrown out at the plate by third baseman Evan Webb (Tennessee Tech).
In the bottom of the 10th inning, the Generals struck pay dirt. Austin Morgan (Charleston) reached on an error, and pinch runner Michael Parker (Wingate) moved to second on a groundout. At this point, Valley League fans got their first glimpse of Vienna’s rather large closer, Jimmy Duggan (George Washington), who stands 6 foot 7. Duggan struck out the first batter he faced, but then in stepped Derek Hamblen (Belmont). Derek smacked a fastball to the fence in left center field, scoring Parker and setting off a Generals celebration on the field after the 1-0 victory. Hamblen said of his hit, “I was just looking for a pitch to hit. I got my chance and was fortunate to take advantage.”
After the game, Bradshaw summed up his performance on the mound. “It felt like I was really in a groove tonight. Everything was working for me. I was able to locate my fastball, and my changeup helped me get out of trouble,” he said. “It means a lot [to win against the #1 team]. To beat them is a really big accomplishment.”
Eric Cantrell (George Washington) was the losing pitcher, even though he did not give up a single hit in 4 1/3 innings, while striking out 5. Jake Cowan (Virginia) received the win after a shutout inning of relief.
Vienna was led at the plate by Seth Henry (Tulane), who went 3-4, all infield singles to shortstop. Juan Mujica (Southern) added two singles. Waynesboro was led by Morgan, who had two singles.
While the game was a nice win, Waynesboro Coach Lawrence Nesselrodt had some other things on his mind as well. “It’s certainly exciting, and our guys have tried to maintain the focus of playing every game like it was against the #1 team. It’s that competitive a league. Our goal is to make the playoffs, number one, and number two is to win our division. This is the kind of momentum we needed. Hopefully we can catch the momentum and continue [playing well].”
Game Two: Vienna vs. Luray
If “pitching” was the buzzword from the first game, then “home runs” would have to describe the second, as a total of 6 round trippers were hit in the game.
If “home runs” wouldn’t work, then we would have to go with “Jeff Jefferson.” Jefferson, a true freshman from Liberty, was the standout performer on the night, as he went 3-4, with 3 runs and 3 RBI and 2 of the 6 home runs, a 2-run shot in the third, and a solo shot in the 8th. “I’m trying to hit back up the middle,” he said. “I’ve been pulling off a lot, but tonight I felt pretty good.” (Jefferson is also a tremendously polite young man- he was noticed helping the opposing catcher with his gear during the game.)
Luray leaped out to a 1-0 lead in the 2nd inning when Austin Markel (West Virginia) started the onslaught of home runs with a bullet to right center field. The score jumped to 4-0 in the 3rd after a Chris Rey (South Florida) sacrifice fly and Jefferson’s first home run. The Wranglers put the game away when CJ Lauriello (Miami-Dade) battled back from an 0-2 count to hit a full-count fastball for a 3-run home run to make the score 8-0 in the 5th.
Vienna battled back to 8-3 in the 6th, when pinch-hitter Matt Goulas (Louisiana-Lafayette) hit the first pitch he saw for a three-run home run, but the Wranglers tacked on 4 more runs in the 8th with 2 walks and 4 hits for a final score of 12-4.
The Wrangler’s Donald Jordat (Miami-Dade) received the win after throwing 5 shutout innings, allowing only 3 hits and 0 walks, while striking out 7. Vienna’s Richard Cary (Marist) received the loss.
Vienna’s standout hitters were Seth Henry, who went 2-3, giving him 5 hits on the day, and Goulas with the pinch hit home run. Luray was led by Jefferson and AJ Wirnsberger (Georgia Southern), who went 2-4 with a home run and 2 RBI.
While the games were just “exhibitions” and won’t count in the standings for either league, it is believed that this is the first time that top teams from two different leagues got together to play, by choice nonetheless, to see how they match up. While it’s unclear how the games might affect PG Crosschecker’s rankings, the most likely outcome is that all three teams will be better for the experience.
Thanks to John Leonard for letting us post his recap of the day’s action. He runs All Things Valley League blog which focuses on the Valley League which is a wood bat league in the Shenandoah Valley. His site can be checked out by clicking here.