As Stone Bridge’s baseball team played for big things Saturday — a berth in the first state title game in program history, for example — the little ones doomed them. The Bulldogs stayed close for most of a 9-1 loss to Hickory in the Virginia 5A state semifinals at Lake Braddock in Burke, but they had too many lapses to advance.
“They did what we’ve been doing to other teams all year,” Stone Bridge Coach Sam Plank said. “. . . We kept escaping, kept escaping, but they kept the pressure on us.”
Until the fifth inning, Stone Bridge (23-2) trailed by just two, looking a big play away from rolling into the rally it needed. But they had only one clutch hit, an RBI single from catcher Eli Quiceno, materialized with a runner in scoring position.
“It definitely could have gone either way,” said Stone Bridge starter Brett Kreyer, who left in the sixth with his team still down two.
After Kreyer departed in the sixth, the little miscues accumulated rapidly. A close play at the plate went Hickory’s way, and then Stone Bridge walked in two runs. After that, the would-be third out — a high flyball to left center — fell between the Bulldogs’ outfielders. Suddenly, it was 9-1, and the team that won 22 games in a row coming into Saturday couldn’t get the 23rd it needed to reach its first state championship game.
“We got to play baseball for a long time, and with 22 straight wins, I told them to focus on all the things you did this year,” Plank said. “They did so many things, set so many records. It was a great year for them.”
●DOUGLAS FREEMAN 7, FREEDOM-SOUTH RIDING 0: Though the Eagles stepped out and called time at every opportunity, they couldn’t slow quick-working Rebels starter Daniel Lynch.
They tried to adjust to his curveball throughout their state semifinal but just couldn’t square it up. The left-hander’s late zip on his fastballs also caused troubles for Freedom.
Nothing could slow Lynch on Saturday at Lake Braddock, and he shut out out the Eagles, 7-0 , ending Freedom’s season in the state semifinals -- the furthest any Eagles had made it in their careers.
“Probably one of the top three pitchers we’ve seen all year,” Eagles Coach Jason Treon said. “He threw three pitches for strikes and pounded the zone.”
Lynch struck out nine Eagles in seven innings, though Freedom (13-14) did have a two-hit fourth inning courtesy of shortstop Kyle Wrighte and catcher Garrett St. Laurent. Advancing a runner to scoring position qualified as an achievement after Lynch’s perfect first three innings, but the Eagles began to work him into deeper counts and got runners on against the Virginia commit in each of the final four innings.
But three of their four hits were infield singles, and two home runs gave the Rebels all they needed to back Lynch. But after making it to the state semifinals for the first time in his five-year tenure, Treon was adamant that Lynch’s memorable performance wouldn’t be the main thing that stuck out in the Eagles’ minds when they looked back on 2014.
“We didn’t want to talk about the game afterwards because it doesn’t matter,” Treon said. “It was ‘Think about where we were relationship-wise in November. Think about where we were relationship-wise on the first day of tryouts. And now look at how we’ve come together over the past few months.’ You can’t take that away.”