Cosby cruises past Dale in region quarters
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
May 29, 2013, 15:34
Thomas Dale junior Clayton Dalkiewicz (left) awaits a throw as Cosby junior Tyler Fitzgerald (17) slides safely into second base during a Central Region tournament game on Monday at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland. Cosby won 9-2 (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
ASHLAND – Playing on the home field of the Yellow Jackets, the Thomas Dale baseball team felt the sting of a season-ending defeat on Monday.
Paced by six sterling innings from left-handed pitcher Hunter Williams, Cosby ousted the Knights from the quarterfinals of the Central Region tournament with a 9-2 victory on the campus of Randolph-Macon College in Ashland.
Cosby – the Dominion District regular-season and tournament champion – led 7-0 by the end of the fifth. The Titans outhit the Knights 14-4, sauntering into a semifinal showdown with Douglas Freeman despite stranding 11 baserunners.
“We felt good about our win and everything,” said Cosby coach Tim Lowery. “But at the same time we felt like we left a small army on the bases. You have to capitalize on those types of things, and hopefully we’ll get better as we go on in the tournament.”
The Knights won’t have that luxury. The loss was the final act in a campaign that began with a tie against Varina and culminated in a late-season surge that saw Thomas Dale claim a share of the Central District regular-season title.
Thomas Dale junior Collin Fleischer (5) went 2-for-3 with a double in the losing effort (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
The region berth was the Knights’ first since 2009, when they reached the semifinals. Thomas Dale coach Chris Marshall offered a simple explanation for his sophomore-laden team’s first-round exit from this year’s bracket.
“We were overmatched today,” he said, adding that he saw in the Titans a team worth emulating.
“Give Cosby credit,” Marshall said. “They really ripped the baseball. I talked to my team about how next year – when some of these younger guys are a little older – that’s how we need to hit the ball on this stage.”
Williams, a North Carolina pledge, struck out eight, limited the Knights to four hits and never looked at risk of sustaining his first loss of the season. The junior helped his own cause by going 2-for-3 at the plate with two RBIs.
“He did OK today,” Lowery said. "He probably wasn’t as sharp as I’ve seen him, but he did a good job. Maybe he didn’t have his best stuff, but he did the things he needed to do. We’re very fortunate to have him.”
Williams’ RBI double to right field gave the Titans’ a 1-0 advantage in the bottom of the first inning, and his RBI single to the same spot helped push the lead to 4-0 by the end of the second.
Cosby led off each of the first four frames with a base knock, but Thomas Dale pitcher Tommy Barron managed to prevent the Titans from adding to their lead until he departed after 4 and 1/3 innings.
The Titans assembled another three-run barrage in the fifth to put the game out of reach, but the Knights salvaged a measure of consolation in the sixth.
Junior Collin Fleischer sparked Thomas Dale’s best inning with a double to right-center field and sophomore Maurice Gothe plated the third baseman with a stand-up double off the wall in left-center.
Gothe stole third base and scored on Barron’s sacrifice fly. Fleischer and Gothe both finished 2-for-3, accounting for all of the Knights’ hits.
Any semblance of hope brought about by the resurgence was promptly squashed in the bottom of the penultimate inning. Cosby junior Tyler Fitzgerald, who finished 2-for-2, hit a two-run double that restored the Titans’ seven-run cushion and provided the final margin.
Brad McKay, Cosby’s No. 9 hitter, churned out a 3-for-3 showing at the plate, anchoring a batting order that left the bases loaded in the first and fifth innings.
The final out brought an end to the high school careers of Thomas Dale seniors Joe Petree, Neal Clark and Michael Brooks. Despite the result, Marshall said his team exceeded expectations this season.
To motivate the group at the outset, Marshall posted printouts of two preseason polls that picked the Knights to finish fifth in the district standings on the wall of the team’s locker room.
The message resonated, according to Petree. “Not only did we compete for first, but we made it to regionals,” the first-team all-district catcher said. “It’s a heck of a feeling. I went out with a bang in my senior year.”
The Knights will return 15 players in 2014, including three all-district performers. Based on that bevy of experience, Marshall believes the team will fare better in next year’s preseason projections.
Petree, who will play at Lynchburg College, echoed that sentiment.
“I think they’re going to be a real contender in the next couple years, definitely a team that could win a game like that,” Petree said before pausing. “They could win a tournament like that.”
Thomas Dale 000 002 0 – 2 4 1
Cosby……....130 032 x – 9 14 0
Williams, Wilson (7) and Ellis; Barron, Boydstun (5), Fleischer (5) and Petree. W: Williams. L: Barron.