Stone Bridge 4,
Loudoun Valley 0
As soon as the ball fired off the bat of Stone Bridge's Landon Gouveia in the sixth inning last night in Leesburg, Bulldogs Coach Sam Plank started motioning for Adam Ventre to tag-up at second base. Ventre turned for a split second to do so, but saw that Gouveia's shot was sailing well beyond the grasp of Loudoun Valley's right fielder.
So he just took off instead.
Ventre ran full speed and, as the ball dropped untouched in right field, Plank gave up the tag call and started pumping his fists in excitement -- and anticipation. The play gave Stone Bridge (16-5) a three-run lead over Loudoun Valley (18-3) in a one-game playoff at Loudoun County to decide the AA Dulles District regular season champion and the league's automatic berth into the Region II playoffs. The game was necessary because the two teams had split during the regular season and both finished with 12-2 district records.
"That's when I felt it," Plank said. "Felt the win."
He wasn't the only one. Ventre and the rest of the Bulldogs, who extended their conference win streak to 12 games with the 4-0 victory, said they sensed it then, too.
"That moment I rounded third base I knew it was over," said Ventre, who went 2 for 2 with a RBI and two runs scored. "With Ryan Rohr on the mound I knew it was lights out."
Rohr (7-0) had not been overpowering -- he struck out only two batters and walked one -- but he had been remarkably efficient. Rohr had a no-hitter working through 52/3 innings before yielding a hit in each of the final two innings. Neither base runner, though, advanced beyond first.
"The difference tonight was their pitcher," Loudoun Valley Coach Wayne Todd said. "And the fact that we couldn't hit the ball. We haven't been hitting for a couple of weeks now and that's been a concern of mine. You can play defense and have solid pitching all you want, but eventually you have to be able to hit the ball, too. And we definitely weren't doing that tonight.
"I'll be honest, I was getting a little lonely over there at third."
Stone Bridge, which started the season 4-4 but has gone 13-1 since, didn't have such troubles. The Bulldogs totaled six hits off junior Paul Holden (7-1), including three in the decisive sixth inning. Holden struck out seven batters and walked none.
"To come back the way we have shows that we've got a lot of heart on this team," Rohr said. "Our bats have been the biggest part of it . . . and that's definitely made it easy on me. As soon as Landon got that hit I had a hard time trying not to think ahead to the end of the game and just how cool it would be to celebrate."