Early in the season when the Woodgrove baseball program dismissed 10 of 15 varsity players for violating school policy, the Wolverines had to merge their junior varsity boys with the remaining varsity guys. This formed what amounted to a senior JV team to trot out in the Virginia AA Dulles District.
Despite that presumed downgrade in skill and experience, Woodgrove topped playoff perennial Potomac Falls, 2-0, on Thursday night in the Region II semifinals to earn the third-year program’s first state tournament berth.
It’s enough to make somebody wonder what kind of JV team this would have been.
The Wolverines (16-6), with three varsity players from last year on their current roster, advanced to play at Sherando in the region final at 7 p.m. Friday.
“Two-and-a-half months ago, I remember sitting on a bucket and telling them how we’re going to set goals week by week,” Woodgrove Coach Brad Bauder said. “There’s confidence, and then there’s the true belief. And I think we have the belief right now.”
“We have nothing to lose,” said Wolverines sophomore right-hander Kaleb Bowman, who threw a three-hitter Thursday night. “No one expected anything from this team, so we just kept going out there playing and having fun. We had doubters, I know that. But we played with no pressure.”
Bowman struck out eight and walked two and, as is his custom, got stronger as the briskly paced game wore on in facing Potomac Falls for the third time this season.
The Wolverines scored their runs in the top of the first, when junior Matt Jeffery led off with a single to left, and freshman Colin Reid bunted and reached on an error. After sophomore Brendan Whitfield bunted them over, junior Hazen Dean popped up a bunt that landed in the infield, allowing both runs to score.
“That’s kind of what we are,” Bauder said of his team’s penchant for small ball. “We don’t just go out and pound the baseball. We know we have to get guys in scoring position. These kids believe in everything they’re doing right now. It’s the way we’ve been playing all year, and we’re very thankful that it’s been working out for us here late.”
Potomac Falls (20-6) got runners on in the first inning, stranding two and having one picked off, and worked a full-count walk to lead off the fourth but could not solve Bowman. Senior Brandon Orbe, the district player of the year, cracked a sharp single to open the bottom of the sixth, but Bowman retired the last six batters of the game to complete his three-hitter, with at least a couple of the deposed Wolverines in attendance.
“We’re all still very close to them,” Bowman said. “Coach still loves them. They’re still good guys. They made one mistake. Nothing’s going to hurt them in the long run. They still come out and support us.”
“I told these guys that we’ve got to get to states for the people that we lost, for them, for their families, for us,” Jeffery said. “So if we just do what we do best we will be successful. And that’s what got us here today.”