Blue Sox Pummel Orioles In Game 2 Rout
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Aug 4, 2014, 09:08
Campbell Henkel once again tossed seven strong innings on the hill to earn the win.
DISPUTANA — All season long, the Prince George Blue Sox have had their minds set on being crowed champion of the Virginia Commonwealth Baseball League. It's this goal which fuels them through each game as they cruised to a division title and a game one playoff win over the Dinwiddie Orioles last week.
However, they knew they did not play their best in the playoff opener. While the final score read 9-2 in favor of the Blue Sox, the seven-run margin of victory was mostly due to a one-inning burst of offense and little else throughout the game. It's why Prince George refused to be satisfied with the win and instead focused on sending a message in a pivotal game two Sunday afternoon.
All it took was one full inning for the message to be sent toward the visiting Orioles and the rest of the VCBL as the Blue Sox pummeled Dinwiddie for eight hits and 11 runs in a dominating opening-frame. Following lead-off hitter Anthony Barnes' long fly-out to center, seven-consecutive Prince George batters reached base while pushing across six runs.
Yet, the offensive display did not end with just six runs being scored. It continued long enough to send former Hopewell standout Jered Stanley to the plate with the bases loaded. Stanley took the first three pitches for a ball before unloading on the fourth for an opposite-field grand slam. Then, Adam Capps — another former Hopewell standout — blasted the very next pitch also over the wall for back-to-back home runs.
And unlike in the first playoff game, Prince George continued to push across runs all afternoon as seven different batters had at least one RBI en route to a convincing 20-1 victory, putting the Blue Sox just one win away from the championship series.
"Last week, we told them they played well, but that wasn't good enough," Blue Sox manager Bill Crockett said after the win. "They came out there looking to erase any doubt and they were swinging it today. It made my job a lot easier as a coach."
Although the offensive outburst played a big part in Crockett sitting comfortably outside of the dugout in a game which became a laugher, the pitching of Campbell Henkel continues to be a key backbone of the Blue Sox's success.
The Virginia Military Institute product did not have his best stuff on the hill, struggling to locate his pitches on either corner of the plate. The loss of his command led to the Orioles putting together lengthy at-bats and making each out a battle of will.
But even without the type of stuff he had in his first outing, Henkel was able to persevere throughout the game by recording keys outs in critical situations. After a lead-off single and two wild-pitches led to a runner being on third base, Henkel recovered to strikeout the next two Orioles batters and would have escaped unscathed if not for an error.
In fact, with the exception of an unearned run in the 2nd inning, the Orioles could muster nothing of note against Henkel as he received a boost from his defense and lackadaisical base-running to toss seven innings of one-run ball while striking out eight batters. And it's the way he battled which truly impressed Crockett.
Jered Stanley blasted two home runs and drove in six runs on a blistering afternoon.
"He's a fighter," Crockett said of the winning pitcher. "For you to beat him, you have to really beat him. He comes to play both offensively and on the mound. He has a fire of not letting you beat him."
However, on this night Henkel was not the big star of the game. Instead, the honor belongs Stanley after his assault on Orioles' pitching throughout the contest after struggling in the first contest between the two teams.
The four-year Blue Sox player has become known for clutch moments throughout his time on the team and Crockett knew his time would come. It's why it's no surprise to him when Stanley can lead a team to a win almost by himself and it looked to be one of those types of days after just one inning of play.
In his very first at-bat of the game, Stanley worked the count full before fouling off the next delivery straight back to back-stop. It was a precursor to what was about to unfold as he laced the next pitch into the right-center field gap to drive in one run. Then, he topped off the inning with a grand slam, but that would not be enough.
For good measure, the former Boston Red Sox prospect blasted another opposite-field homer in the 5th inning to finish the game 3-for-6 at the plate with two home runs, a double and 6 RBIs.
Dale Fuller's two-run double late in the game helped the Blue Sox tack on some more runs in the rout.
"He's a clutch player," Crockett said of Stanley. "I never give up on him because in the crunch, he'll hit one 400 feet out of here. He has his ups and downs, but lately he's really coming around."
And so is the entire Prince George team as they blasted four home runs, played timely defense and ran the bases well. It was the type of display shown by winning teams when the stakes are the highest, but it was only another step of a long process to capture their season-long goal.
A 19-run win is surely satisfying, but it loses its value if the Blue Sox don't close out the series Saturday afternoon. It's why the team didn't celebrate after the game, but instead remained locked in and focused as they aim to finish off the Orioles and cross off another step on the way to a championship.