VSU rallies in seventh inning to stun Chowan
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Apr 1, 2013, 12:25
Chowan University shortstop Colby Wiggins (4) applies a tag to Virginia State University freshman Corey Grant (22), who was caught in a rundown between first and second base during a CIAA game at Whaley Colbert Field in Ettrick on Saturday (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
ETTRICK – Virginia State University reliever Maso Cotton thought he was softening the blow of a lop-sided defeat on Saturday. In actuality, the right-handed pitcher was weaving the fabric of the most improbable win of his college career.
With his team trailing by four runs and sputtering on offense against a red-hot Chowan team, Cotton took the mound in the fifth inning and kept the visiting Hawks at bay for the remainder of the game.
His solid showing appeared to be little more than a consolation prize until the Trojans assembled a six-run rally in the seventh and final frame to tie the contest at 10-10.
Virginia State University junior Maso Cotton pitched six and two thirds innings on Saturday, striking out four and limiting Chowan to four hits and two runs (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
Cotton continued to befuddle the once-sizzling visitors until VSU mustered a game-winning run in the 11th to prevail 11-10 in a thrilling CIAA game at Whaley Colbert Field in Ettrick.
“I definitely came in thinking I was just going to eat some innings up and get us through the rest of the game,” Cotton said. “But things took a turn for the better, and I’m happy I was able to keep us in the game.”
The victory came in Game 2 of a doubleheader and thwarted what would have been a two-game sweep for the Hawks, who snapped a four-game losing streak with a 7-0 win in the opener.
A rubber match scheduled for Sunday was postponed because of inclement weather.
The Trojans’ equalizing surge came about like a rogue wave.
The Hawks led by as many as seven runs and still possessed a 10-4 lead after six and a half innings. The decisive rally began harmlessly enough when VSU freshman Colton Gunn reached on a walk.
Stephen Brown and Corey Grant – the Trojans’ ninth and 10th hitters, respectively – were both hit by wayward pitches immediately thereafter to load the bases.
Lead-off hitter Nick Christopher, who went 3-for-6 with two RBIs and two runs, provided the first of three timely hits in the inning, smashing a two-run single up the middle that made the score 10-6.
Colonial Heights native Josh Markins kept the hot streak alive by drawing a five-pitch walk before Matoaca graduate Tyler Coleman halved the deficit with a two-strike single that plated Grant and Christopher (10-8).
A pair of perfectly executed sacrifices pulled the Trojans to within one. Percy Evans laid down a sacrifice bunt to put runners on second and third, paving the way for John McCarty to score Markins with a sacrifice fly that made the score 10-9.
The last-ditch resurgence would have fallen short if not for Gunn’s eighth RBI of the season. Batting for the second time in the inning, the Dinwiddie native with a .235 batting average deposited a two-out single into left-center field that scored pinch runner James Goodwin.
“We got a few on and had some clutch hits,” said VSU coach Merrill Morgan. “Christopher had one, Colton Gunn had one and Percy [Evans] laid down a sacrifice bunt. It was a total team effort. It took everybody to win a game that we really needed.”
For a while, it seemed like the seventh-inning dramatics would be for naught. In the eighth, Christopher legged out a double and reached third base on a wild pitch. The next batter seemed to be the right man in the right spot.
But Markins – who leads the team with 27 RBIs – struck out swinging for the second out of the inning, Kelvin Davis grounded out to first base and the opportunity went begging.
“It just didn’t pan out,” Morgan said. “Josh was at the plate, and nine times out of 10 he’s going to make contact and put the ball in play. We’ll take Josh in that situation with one out and a man on third any time because most of the time he’ll get them in.”
A similar opportunity fell by the wayside in the ninth when McCarty advanced to third before another inning-ending groundout extended the game. Morgan said the bygone chances didn’t shake his belief that a victory was in the cards.
“That’s baseball,” Morgan said. “When we were able to score six runs in the seventh inning to tie the game up, we thought the game was destined to be ours.”
It was — thanks in large part to Cotton’s unwavering poise.
The junior, who compiled a 5-3 record as a starter last year, pitched five scoreless innings to close out the marathon matchup.
“Every inning after we tied it up, I was thinking, ‘This could be the inning where we end it,’” Cotton said. “It was definitely an emotional roller coaster. There were a lot of ups and downs.”
The game-winning sequence began when Markins led off the 11th with a walk and Evans reached on an error. From there, Chowan opted to load the bases by intentionally walking McCarty.
VSU sophomore William Tapp left the Hawks ruing that decision by drawing a four-pitch walk that scored Markins.
“They’ve been doing that pretty much all year,” Morgan said. “It seems like we’re always a little flat in the first game. But then it seems like when we’re backed against a wall and we need to come up with some runs, they usually respond.”
John Hunter, Evan Holton, Austin Hall and Evan Seymour all registered two hits for the Hawks. Chowan starter George Mazza pitched six innings and started the seventh before being withdrawn with the Hawks leading 10-4.
Chowan freshman Carter Siweck pitched the seventh inning and Bobby Mason appeared in the eighth, absorbing the pitching loss.
Markins, Cotton (5) and McCarty. Mazza, Siweck (7), Mason (8) and Hall. WP: Cotton. LP: Mason. Records: Chowan 13-24 (5-6 CIAA); Virginia State 17-10 (7-2).
Chowan 7, VSU 0
Former Thomas Dale High School standout Ryan Moore pitched a five-hit shutout on Saturday, leading Chowan University to a 7-0 road victory over Virginia State in the first of two CIAA games at Whaley Colbert Field in Ettrick.
The junior right-hander finished with five strikeouts and walked two batters en route to his fourth win in 10 starts this season.
“It went pretty well,” Moore said. “I got ahead of hitters and we got an early lead. I just tried to keep the ball down.”
Moore is joined on the Chowan roster by two other Thomas Dale graduates – freshmen Keaton Scales and Austin McGhee. In all, the CIAA series featured 15 players that competed in the Central District in high school.
“I especially like playing against Virginia State,” Moore said. “Because I played against these guys all through high school. It’s fun playing against them again.”
CU: 200 040 1 – 7 6 0
VSU: 000 000 0 – 0 5 3
Moore and Martin. Gunn, Solomon (6) and McCarty. WP: Moore. LP: Gunn.