Robinson 3, Hayfield 1
The ball sailed off the bat of Hayfield senior Matt Townsend and seemed destined to land beyond the center field fence during the sixth inning of yesterday's Virginia AAA Northern Region baseball championship.
Robinson senior pitcher Brad Kledzik thought the ball was gone. So did Hayfield Coach Mark Luther, who thought his slugger had broken a tie game. And so did Robinson sophomore center fielder Travis Medina, who nevertheless sprinted toward the wall and thrust his 5-foot-10, 150-pound frame as high as he could, catching the ball just after it had cleared the six-foot fence.
The play sparked No. 5 Robinson, which responded by scoring two runs in the bottom of the sixth to earn a 3-1 victory over Hayfield and its first region baseball title since 1980 in front of a crowd of approximately 600 in Fairfax.
"That's a catch I had only made in my dreams," Medina said. "That was the best catch I've made my whole life. I think that gave us the edge and changed the whole game."
Robinson Coach Bill Evers said that twice a week the Rams practice such catches by using the pitching machine to send balls over the fence.
"You never know when you'll need to make a play like that in a game," Evers said.
With the victory, Robinson (20-5) earned a home game in this week's state tournament; it will host the loser of yesterday's Eastern Region championship between Princess Anne and First Colonial in Tuesday's quarterfinals.
Hayfield (14-12), which made its first region final appearance in the school's 36-year history, will play at the Eastern Region champion.
"All season we have talked about knowing we were capable of winning the region," Medina said. "And now that we did it, to be the first team here to do it in 25 years is just awesome."
Kledzik (8-2) allowed just one unearned run on five hits to go along with five strikeouts, and he also drove in what turned out to be the game-winning run in the sixth inning. Kledzik's double to deep right field scored Jeff Swiger, who entered the game to pinch-run for senior catcher Billy Brubaker, who had led off the inning by hitting a double to right-center.
"I thought I had just gave up the biggest hit of the game when Townsend hit that one, but then when Travis made that catch it was like we got a gift," Kledzik said. "After that, we all knew we had to take care of business."
One out after Kledzik's RBI hit, Hayfield starting pitcher Michael Graham hit Mike Weiler with a pitch and was relieved by Townsend, who gave up a run-scoring single to left fielder Charlie Martin to cap the scoring. Graham (5-2) took the loss despite allowing just two earned runs on three hits in five innings.
"It's a tough loss, but we're a resilient team and we're in uncharted territory since we've never been this far," Luther said. "I think they'll take every game from here on out as just another baseball game."