Barron, Knights oust Royals in first round
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
May 24, 2013, 11:27
Thomas Dale center fielder Maurice Gothe (12) dives back to first base as Prince George freshman Jackson Rivera awaits a pickoff attempt on Tuesday in Chesterfield. The third-seeded Knights knocked off the second-seeded Royals, 4-1 (photo by David Breidenbach).
CHESTERFIELD – A little more than a year ago, then-freshmen Tommy Barron and Nathan Eaton were summoned from the Thomas Dale junior varsity baseball team to join a varsity squad mired in a lackluster season.
The Knights finished the 2012 campaign in fifth place in the Central District standings and missed the playoffs by a single game.
What a difference a year makes.
Buoyed by unflinching performances from Barron and Eaton, third-seeded Thomas Dale toppled No. 2 Prince George 4-1 on Tuesday in the first round of the district tournament in Chesterfield.
With the victory, the Knights clinched their first berth in the Central Region tournament since 2009 and advanced to a district championship showdown with Matoaca, the tournament host. The loss brought an unceremonious end to Prince George’s season.
“In playoff baseball, you have to have pitchers that throw strikes and limit walks,” said Thomas Dale coach Chris Marshall. “You have to have guys on the field that are making plays. We made them, and we came up with some big hits.
Thomas Dale sophomore Tommy Barron limited Prince George to four hits and no earned runs en route to a 4-1 win on Tuesday in the first round of the Central District tournament (photo by David Breidenbach).
“We played like a playoff team tonight.”
And Barron, a second-team all-district pitcher, played like a bona fide ace. The right-hander limited the Royals to four hits and no earned runs over seven innings, and he did it all without straying from his trademark even-keeled demeanor.
“This was a backs-to-the-wall playoff game that he started as a 10th grader,” Marshall said. “But before the game, he was just milling around and smiling. He’s just nice and easy.”
Eaton paced the Knights’ offense by going 3-for-4 with two runs and a double. The sophomore shortstop said his rapid ascension from JV call-up to varsity standout took even him by surprise.
“It’s been crazy,” he said. “I never thought it would end up this way.”
The same could be said about Prince George’s last two weeks. The Royals, who sat atop the standings for most of the season, could have clinched a region berth by winning any of their final three games. Instead, they closed the season on a four-game losing streak.
After two scoreless innings to start the game, Thomas Dale assembled a breakthrough sequence with one out in the top of the third. Neal Clark sparked the rally by battling back from an 0-2 count to earn a walk that brought the Knights back to the top of their order.
Eaton, the lead-off hitter, then singled to put runners on the corners, and senior catcher Joe Petree opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly that plated Clark. Collin Fleischer pushed the lead to 2-0 with an RBI single in the next at-bat, scoring Eaton from second.
Thomas Dale’s lead grew to 3-0 after Cody Boydstun’s RBI single in the fourth, but Prince George pinch runner Austin Ramsey came home on a throwing error in the bottom of the frame to cut the deficit to 3-1.
The duo of Eaton and Petree struck again in the fifth to provide the final margin. Eaton doubled to right-center field and scored immediately thereafter on Petree’s first-pitch single to nearly the same spot.
“I just wanted to do the best I could,” Eaton said. “And help the team win.”
The Royals put runners on first and second in the seventh, but an unconventional double play put an anticlimactic end to the last-ditch rally. Prince George sophomore Jordan Nase hit a comebacker that Barron fielded cleanly and threw to second base.
Nase beat the second throw of an attempted 1-4-3 double play, but the final out was awarded on the basis of runner interference. “I don’t even know what happened,” Barron said. “I turned my head and they called him out. I’ll take it.”
Prince George senior Cody Casey went 2-for-3 in the final game of his high school career. Junior pitcher Mark King lasted six innings but absorbed the loss for the Royals, who finished with an overall record of 15-6.
Thomas Dale (13-5-1) will take on Matoaca – a 7-1 semi-final winner over No. 3 Dinwiddie – for the third time in eight days on Thursday. The two Chesterfield County schools split their regular-season meetings before Matoaca won a regular-season playoff game last Thursday.
“We know them pretty well, and we’re very similar,” Marshall said. “Whoever makes the most plays and comes up with the biggest come-through hits late in the game is going to win it. It should be a pretty even game.”
TDHS: 002 110 0 – 4 7 1
PGHS: 000 100 0 – 1 4 3
Barron and Petree; King, Runion (7) and Rotzoll. W: Barron. L: King.