Colonial Heights' Offense and Pitching Lead To Win
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Mar 11, 2014, 19:57
Seth Markins unleashes a pitch during a dominating three-inning effort.
COLONIAL HEIGHTS — Just a few weeks ago, Colonials manager Gerald Carsley spoke of being concerned about his team's offense. He figured the bats would come around as the season began, but he did not like the way the Manchester pitching staff had their way with his hitters.
Yet, in their final exhibition game the bats he worried about came alive early and often against a beleaguered Park View squad.
All it took was a five pitch at-bat in which lead-off hitter Seth Markins drew a walk to open up the flood gates. The Colonials would respond with four consecutive singles following the walk to Markins with the big blow coming off the bat of Noah Murdock as he drove in two runs with his base-hit.
The five-run, five-hit first inning set the tone for the rest of the game in which the Colonial Heights offense would explode for 18 hits in a dominating 17-3 victory over the Dragons at Shepherd Stadium.
"Up and down the lineup, I thought we hit the ball extremely well today," Carsley said after the victory. "We were a little concerned because of Manchester, but obviously they had great pitching ... I felt like the bats were going to come around and they did today."
But no one swung the bat better than the Colonials' starting third basemen and No. 3 hitter in the lineup.
When Zach Stewart steps up to the plate, the tension around the diamond intensifies. The senior is a known slugger and everyone focuses on what his swing may produce in every at-bat. And when the ball connects with Stewart's bat, one could just hear the difference.
The ball jumps off his bat with authority and it took only three innings and three at-bats to demonstrate the type of talent he possesses. Stewart singled in his first time in the box, pulling an inside pitch into left field. Then, Stewart blasted a fastball in the middle of the plate down the line for a double.
Yet, the slugger was not finished. In his third at-bat, Stewart took a high fastball well over the 374-feet sign in straightaway center field for a three-run home run. The senior finished his afternoon 3-for-4 with three RBIs, impressing his manager.
"He's real committed at the plate and he doesn't like to sell his at-bats short," Carsley said of his slugger. "If he finds a pitch he thinks he can hit, he tries to go after it."
However, perhaps more impressive than Stewart's hitting Markins' work on the hill.
Earning the start against Park View, Markins needed just five pitches to breeze through a first inning of work in which he helped himself out to produce a 1-6-3 double-play. Then, in the second inning Markins threw a late-breaking curve-ball to freeze one hitter and ended the frame by freezing another on a fastball which dotted the outside corner.
While Markins would find himself in a little bit of trouble in the third inning — two wild pitches, a single and a fielder's choice led to a run — his 30-pitch, three-inning, two strikeout and one earned run outing was exactly what Carsley has come to expect from the junior.
"He takes the batter where he wants them to go and he really pounded the zone," Carsley said. "He kept the ball down, pitched to the outside part of the plate and he was tough today."
And much like he did at the plate, Markins seemed to propel the rest of the Colonials' pitching staff to great outings as well. Jayson Maitland worked his way through two scoreless innings, but all eyes were on Matt Young in the second-to-last inning of work.
The left hander struggled against Manchester in Colonial Heights' first scrimmage, most specifically with his location. However, he threw all those concerns aside with a sharp inning of work.
Young's fastball seemed to pop out of his left-hand and had late tailing movement away from hitters as evidenced by their off-balance swings. Yet, even more impressive was his off-speed pitch which buckled a few batter's knees including one for a called strike three.
"Matt really rebounded because at Manchester, I thought he struggled," Carsley said. "He's worked on his mechanics and he threw the ball better today ... it looked like he did throw that breaking-ball more."
In a game where the Colonials racked up 18 hits, it's easy to overlook Zach Stoupa's long RBI-double to center field which caromed off the way or Matt Falls' opposite-field extra-base hit. However, it would be difficult to look past Maitland's play.
Zach Stewart lines this pitch down the left field line during a 3-for-4 night with a double and a home run.
The junior shortstop made two incredible plays in one inning as he dove to his left to snag a low line-drive and also nearly tagging a runner while in midair off a throw from Markins on an attempted stolen base. He even went a perfect 3-for-3 from the plate including a sac-fly as he drove in three runs on the night.
"He's a great player," Carsley said. "All-around? You can't ask for a better player. He can do anything we ask him to do and that's why he plays all those key spots."
While Colonial Heights rolled to a scrimmage win, they know hitting is fickle and it won't last all season long. But if they continue to make the routine plays while the pitching staff pounds the zone, the Colonials should surprise a few people this season.