Marshall senior outfielder Scott Carrell figured he’d just gone 0 for 3 for the night. With no outs, a runner on first and his team trailing by two in the top of the seventh inning in Friday’s Virginia 5A state semifinal game against Hickory, Carrell popped up a foul ball near his team’s dugout on the first base side.
Hickory’s first baseman ran toward it to make what should have been the first out of the inning. Instead, the ball popped out of his glove and gave Carrell and the Statesmen new life.
Carrell took full advantage and made the Hawks pay dearly as he blasted an inside fastball over the left field fence that knotted the score. The two-run home run helped propel Marshall to a 7-4 victory in Burke and a berth in Saturday’s state championship.
The Statesemen (21-6) will face Stone Bridge, which shut out Douglas Freeman in the day’s first semifinal.
“I thought I was done,” Carrell said. “The adrenaline, the joy, it’s crazy and wild.”
Carrell’s homer was his third of the season and came at the most crucial point of Marshall’s season. It sent his teammates in the dugout and the Marshall fans attending the game at Lake Braddock into a frenzy. The jubilation continued three batters later when senior catcher Mitch Blackstone drove in two runs on a double off the center field wall to put the Statesmen up 6-4.
“You have to have a slow heartbeat and be in the moment focused on what you’re doing,” Blackstone said.
First baseman Shane Russell drove in the inning’s final run on a single down the first base line and into right field.
Blackstone was the early catalyst for his team’s improbable rally against the Hawks (19-4). With the Statesmen trailing 4-1 in the top of the sixth and with two strikes on him, he received a fastball down the middle of the plate. Blackstone, who was surprised to see such a tempting pitch, said his eyes lit up before he launched the ball over the left-center field wall.
“I felt if I could put the ball in play, it could get the offense rolling and get some momentum,” Blackstone said. “Obviously I’ll take a home run any day. In that situation, with two strikes, you have to think easy, simple and about the team first.”
Carrell said he’d never been a part of a game as dramatic as Friday’s. He threw a no-hitter with the junior varsity team as a sophomore, but that didn’t compare to what transpired on this night.
“We didn’t give up on each other,” Carrell said. “It happened and came through.”
Stone Bridge Coach Sam Plank peered with slight concern while his pitcher, Brett Kreyer, warmed up before the first inning of Friday’s Virginia 5A state semifinal against Douglas Freeman in Burke. Three pitches bounced in the dirt, and for a quick moment, Plank wondered about his southpaw.
Any doubt was erased after Kreyer’s first pitch. The junior dominated from start to finish of a one-hitter in a 6-0 win at Lake Braddock to send Stone Bridge to Saturday’s state final.
Following the last out, a popup to junior left fielder Josh Greenberg, Kreyer’s teammates mobbed him near third base in celebration.
“He goes out and pitches like that almost every night,” shortstop John Callahan said. “Tonight, it was more magnified because it was the state semifinals. After the first couple of innings, I knew he was on.”
The lone hit Kreyer surrendered came in the top of the third, with Douglas Freeman infielder Coleman Greene driving a single up the middle.
Kreyer finished the game with one walk and one hit batter.
“No-hitters are pretty hard to come by,” Kreyer said. “Just one hit, I think that’s pretty good.”
Plank called Kreyer’s performance “one of the best” he has seen in a Stone Bridge uniform. And Kreyer has been at his best of late.
In seven starts since April 28, Kreyer is 5-0 with two no-decisions. Saturday, he struck out three and was aided by a defense that only committed one error and came up with timely outs. One such play came after the error, which put a runner on first for the Rebels (19-7). In a 2-1 count, Kreyer got Douglas Freeman’s Coleman Greene to hit a grounder to senior second baseman Eric Johnson, who turned it for a 4-6-3 double play.
“I don’t strike a lot people out, so I definitely rely on my defense heavily,” Kreyer said. “To have the defense we have, they barely make any mistakes. I’m blessed to have it.”
Though the game was scoreless through three innings, Plank figured his team would come up big when needed. As he told his team on the bus ride early Friday afternoon, “someone has to step up and get a big hit.”
In the bottom of the fourth, after consecutive Douglas Freeman errors put runners on first and second, senior first baseman Tanner Karafa lined a 3-2 pitch to right field that scored junior catcher Eli Quiceno. Junior designated hitter Matthew Fialdini then drove in two more runs with a hard grounder between the shortstop and third baseman.
The Bulldogs (22-5) — who lost to eventual state champion Hickory in the 2014 semifinals — added three insurance runs in the sixth to put the game out of reach and send them to the state title game for the first time.
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