Togna, Knights clip Trojans
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Apr 17, 2013, 12:43
CHESTER – Monday’s non-district baseball game between Thomas Dale and visiting Midlothian was a pitchers’ duel, but not in the traditional sense. This was not a duel of pitching prowess, but of pitching depth.
With both teams looking ahead to more meaningful district outings on Tuesday, the Knights and Trojans withheld their top hurlers, opting instead for a pitcher-by-committee approach that saw seven players toe the rubber before game’s end.
Thomas Dale prevailed 8-6, scoring three runs in the fourth inning to break open a back-and-forth game that featured 17 hits and four ties. Owen Togna, who made his season debut in the third inning, earned the pitching victory.
Thomas Dale junior Collin Fleischer jogs to first base after a walk during a non-district game against Midlothian on Monday (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
“Owen did a great job,” said Thomas Dale coach Chris Marshall. “But what I was most pleased with today was that the guys who haven’t played much came through for us.”
The Knights scored in each of the first four innings and assembled an offensive display that – like the drizzling rain that fell throughout the all-Chesterfield County affair – was never overbearing but always accumulating.
The eight-run outpouring was a byproduct of top-to-bottom hitting.
“We’ve been really reliant on our third, fourth and fifth hitters,” Marshall said. “I think it was Nos. 6, 7, 8 and 9 that did a lot of the damage today. That’s what we need. Once we can get everybody hitting, then we’re going to be hard to deal with.”
Paced by lead-off batter Matt Miller’s 3-for-3 showing at the plate, the Trojans outhit the hosts 11-6. But the visitors stranded eight baserunners, four of whom reached third base. “We left our chances out there,” said Midlothian coach Adam Griffin. “They played a heck of a game, but we stranded our chances.”
Midlothian trailed 2-0 after one inning but rallied to take a 4-3 edge in the top of the third. Thomas Dale reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the frame without registering a base hit.
Junior Collin Fleischer, a Virginia Military Institute commit, led off with a five-pitch walk and advanced to second when Maurice Gothe replicated that feat.
A past ball moved the Knights’ third and fourth hitters into scoring position. Fleischer scored on Tommy Barron’s sacrifice fly and Gothe narrowly beat a throw home on Cody Boydston’s fielder’s choice to give the Knights a 5-4 lead.
Miller singlehandedly put the stubborn Trojans back on level terms in the fourth. With two outs, the center fielder laid an inch-perfect bunt down the first baseline, stole second and scored on an outfield error.
True to form, the Knights bounced back. This time, the go-ahead sequence began at the bottom of the batting order.
Batting in the No. 8 spot, designated hitter Mike Domowicz sparked the decisive rally with a lead-off single to right field. The next batter, Taylor Trueheart, followed suit with a single to center and Corey Johnston walked to load the bases.
Nathan Eaton drew a second consecutive walk that plated Domowicz, Trueheart scored as the Trojans turned a double play and Johnston reached home on Gothe’s RBI single to make the score 8-5.
The Trojans managed to load the bases with one out in the fifth, seemingly well-positioned to continue the pattern of catch and release. But Togna induced back-to-back pop-ups and the Knights escaped the inning.
“That was big,” Marshall said. “Owen made some great pitches, and we made some great plays all day behind him.”
Miller scored his second run of the game in the penultimate frame, but the Trojans never really threatened to overtake the Knights after fizzling out in the fifth.
“We just didn’t get the big hit in the big spots,” Griffin said.
Gothe finished 1-for-1 at the plate with two walks and three RBIs. Midlothian third baseman Zack Ayoub went 2-for-2 with an RBI.
Johnston pitched the seventh inning for the home team, earning a save. Andrew Turner absorbed the pitching loss for Midlothian, which fell to 4-4 on the season.
With the victory, the Knights improved to 4-1-1 overall. Marshall said he was pleased with his team’s business-like demeanor throughout the topsy-turvy game, adding that the final result is indicative of a change in the group’s collective mindset.
“These kids don’t have any quit in them,” Marshall said. “And honestly in the last couple years, I think we had a lot of quit in us. This group has changed that mentality. We’re never going to stop playing.”