Colonial Heights Upset By Poquoson
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
May 26, 2014, 21:55
Noah Murdock struggled with command, lasting just 2+ innings in the Colonials' first-round playoff game.
COLONIAL HEIGHTS — All season long, the Colonials battled to be in the position of hosting a first round game of the Conference 25 Tournament and after a campaign filled with its ups and downs, Colonial Heights won six of its last nine games to earn a No. 3 seed. Home field advantage, a rested squad and their ace on the hill filled the team with confidence heading into the first-round match-up.
After all, just seven days prior, Noah Murdock had thrown a no-hitter against Southampton with 12 strikeouts to enter the playoffs on a high-note. Yet, from the opening pitch, it was clear the right-hander was not at his best against No. 6 seeded Poquoson. The sophomore struggled with control, walking the lead-off hitter before surrendering a two-run home run to Clemson commit Chase Pinder just two batters later.
While Murdock would then pitch around another walk and a double by getting a strikeout to end the inning, the damage was done. But in the bottom of the inning, the Colonials loaded the bases on the strength of a lead-off single from Seth Markins and two consecutive walks worked by Jayson Maitland and Drew Mehfoud to set the stage for Murdock.
Murdock stepped into the box, dug into the dirt with his right cleat before staring out at the Islanders' starting pitcher Richie Cannella. Cannella got his sign, shook his head in acknowlegement and let it rip as Murdock cocked the bat back and swung, pounding the pitch into the dirt.
The hard-hit ball would find Pinder's glove as he completed a 6-3 double-play to end the threat and foreshadow the type of game it would be for Colonial Heights. While the Colonials would fight back and create numerous scoring chances, they could not get the big-hit in a clutch situation as their season came to an end in a 13-5 loss at Shepherd Stadium.
"The difference in the game was they had key hits in the key times and we didn't," Colonial Heights manager Gerald Carsley said after the game. "Any time you have a kid hit a home run off your ace in the 1st inning, that's tough ... we had a couple of bad errors which allowed them to put runs on the board, so we kind of dug a hole too big to climb out of."
But for most of the game, it seemed the Colonials would chip away enough to steal a win in the late innings and the reason why was the relief pitching of Zach Stewart.
Pressed into relief after Murdock's struggles continued into the 3rd inning — the sophomore lasted just 2+ innings while allowing seven runs on seven hits — Stewart stranded two of three inherited runners to end the 3rd inning. Then, Stewart would throw three additional innings while allowing just two more runs to cross the plate.
While Stewart has been a short-inning reliever, the senior gave it his all in what ended up as his last outing in his high school career. The more pitches he threw, the less velocity he had, but Stewart gutted through it. He utilized his off-speed pitches to great effect while changing locations to keep a hot-hitting Poquoson team from breaking the game open to give his team a chance.
Seth Markins points to catcher Nick Meyer who gunned down a Poquoson runner who took a big secondary lead on a called strike in the 1st inning.
In fact, the team fed off his ability to keep the Islanders off the board, staying in the game mentally and not relenting until the final out was recorded.
"That's the way they've been all year," Carsley said of the team's mentality. "If we get down, they don't quit on themselves. They've always worked hard. They believe they could come back from any deficit, but tonight it was a little too big early."
And the early deficit is what ended up costing the Colonials in the end.
Needing an eight-run rally to tie the game in the bottom of the 7th inning, the Colonials' Matt Young reached base on an E-6 — he finished his last high school game going 2-for-4 on the night — to set his team up. However, Reed Raikes and Zach Stoupa would follow Young with two consecutive strikeouts to leave it up to Markins to keep the season alive.
The junior took a 1-2 Cannella offering into medium-depth center field and watched it gently fall into Poquoson's Ryan Darnell's glove, inciting celebration on one bench and a solemn scene on the other. While the Colonials shook hands with the Islanders and walked to the third base side of the field with their heads down and shoulders slumped, their season was not a failure.
Entering the season with just four seniors on the roster, the Colonials lack of experience could have doomed the team from the start. However, the Colonials always had an answer after things looked bleak and never lost more than two games in a row all season long. Additionally, while the loss ended the season, it is just another lesson in a campaign full of them for a young team with a brighter future in front of them.
Poquoson starter Richie Cannella threw a complete-game against the Colonials, keeping them off-balance all night long.
"We have four seniors who are moving, but the core part of this team is returning," Carsley said. "We're excited about that. We wish our seniors the best and their definitely going to be missed ... but you always have to like having a large number of your team returning."
While the 2014 season ended in disappointment, the Colonials can already look forward to the next one in which Murdock, Markins, Maitland and the rest will be one year older and wiser, and ready to convert the lessons of this past season into an even better campaign in 2015.