The Bulldogs wanted to relish the moment following their 9-4 victory over Marshall in the Virginia 5A baseball title game Saturday at Robinson.
The pair embraced in the infield and held each other for an extra second, and then another. Between them, a state championship medal — Stone Bridge’s first — and maybe some tears too.
“We just shared a special moment,” Karafa said. “Almost every day in the locker room, during every postseason practice, we talked about how bad we wanted this.”
Plank’s impending departure to Riverside High was not talked about openly during the team’s tournament run, but the players knew how they wanted Plank to finish his 15-year run as the school’s first and only baseball coach. Plank’s line to them was simple: he would remain their coach until the final pitch. And what a final pitch it was.
A day after Brett Kreyer advanced the Bulldogs (23-5) to the final with a one-hitter, junior pitcher David Mocabee delivered another complete game. He surrendered a two-run home run to Will Brooke in the second inning, but gave up just two more runs the rest of the way. One of those came on Brooke’s second homer of the day, a seventh-inning bomb to nearly the same spot.
“[Mocabee] made a couple bad pitches, but you know what, he refocused and that’s what tough kids do,” Plank said. “He just battled the whole game. He wouldn’t let me take him out.”
Meanwhile, the Stone Bridge offense relied on depth, as it has all year. Mocabee got things started with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first inning and later added another RBI. Michael Kuzbel led the team with three runs batted in, including two in the bottom of the sixth that turned a 4-3 lead into a 6-3 advantage. The Bulldogs added three more in that frame without getting a ball out of the infield. They finished with 12 hits to Marshall’s eight.
Statesmen (21-7) Coach Aaron Tarr said his team had given all it had the previous night to come back against Hickory and therefore could not respond Saturday. The loss ends the Marshall career of 5A North region player of the year Mitch Blackstone, who went 3 for 4. Tarr called his catcher “the best high school baseball player I’ve ever been around.”
After the final out, the Bulldogs piled up between second and third base. One of Plank’s assistants turned to the head coach and said, “Are you going to go out there with them?”
“No,” Plank responded, “this is their moment.”