Long strange trip leads to first district loss
VINTON – The William Byrd baseball team lost their Blue Ridge District opener last Thursday in one of the most unusual games in recent memory. The game took over four hours to complete before LB pulled out a 10-8 win in extra innings at Walthall Park.
Much of the time was taken up by a delay of close to two hours after home plate umpire Nathan Hamlett was hit in the eye by the baseball. It occurred in a wild four run fourth inning as LB took the lead on a two-out, bases loaded double by Dylan Powers that turned into a Little League Grand Slam.
Byrd scored three runs in the first inning to take the early lead, but LB tied it at 3-3 with a three run third. The Terriers then answered with three more in the bottom of the inning to go back ahead 6-3.
In the top of the fourth LB had the bases loaded with two outs and Powers, one of the best hitters in the area, at the plate. Dylan drove a ball to deep left-center that the Byrd outfielders couldn’t run down as Cavaliers raced around the bases. The relay throw to the plate was late as LB tied the game, but the ball bounced wild and hit umpire Hamlett right in the eye. Byrd catcher Jo Stickney retrieved the ball and fired to third hoping to nail Powers, but the ball sailed into left and Dylan raced home to give LB an 8-7 lead.
In the meantime, Hamlett had collapsed on the grass to the first base side of home plate. He was attended to by the trainer but was unable to continue. Byrd coach Chris Carr and LB coach Todd Smith huddled to decide what to do.
“We wanted to play,” said Smith. “If we had stopped there we would have had to play the whole thing over and I hate to do that. That would have been just a waste of everyone’s time.”
At first the two umpires decided to switch positions, with Hamlett calling the bases, but Carr put an end to that.
“He was out in the parking lot and he could hardly stand up,” said Carr. “That just wasn’t a good idea.”
After several calls a replacement umpire was found and the game was continued after a delay of close to two hours. Both pitchers were replaced after the delay as Britton Chocklette took over for Collin Hill for Byrd and Zack Kelly replaced Michael Mnich for LB.
It was now past 8 pm and the lights were on in a game started at 5 pm. Byrd tied the game with a run in the bottom of the fourth on a two-out single by Alex North and took the lead, 8-7, with a run in the fifth.
Ryan Oliver led off the LB sixth with a double and moved to third on a sacrifice. Zack Maust then grounded out, but Oliver scored to tie the game. Byrd had the top of the order coming up in the bottom of the seventh but couldn’t rally.
“That’s who I wanted up, but they didn’t get it done,” said Carr. “The next time that situation comes up those are the guys I’d want up.”
Botetourt’s Oliver started another rally in the top of the eighth with a single, followed by a walk and a sacrifice. Another walk loaded the bases and LB scored on an infield error and a single by Will Cline to take a 10-8 lead. Kelly then put it away by striking out the heart of Byrd’s order to end the game.
“When they got two runs in the top of the eighth I knew we were in trouble,” said Carr. “They have one thing we don’t have, and that’s swagger. When we got up three runs they were still confident they were going to come back and win, and we just don’t have that kind of mentality right now. We’re every bit as talented as they are, but we don’t have that swagger. We’re workin’ on it.”
Chocklette took the loss with three and two-thirds innings of solid relief, and Alex Brown got the final two outs in the eighth. Riggs had three hits to lead the Terriers, Hill had two hits and two runs batted in and North was two-for-three and had a perfect squeeze bunt to score a run.
The game was the first in the BRD for both teams and there’s a long way to go, but LB was understandably elated with the win.
“It was great to get that first district win, especially at Byrd,” said Smith. “This district is so good every game is important, and Byrd is a tough place to play.”
Carr was philosophical about the loss.
“Any time you lose a home game in the district it isn’t good, but this district is still up in the air,” he said. “I still see Northside as the favorite, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a 7-3 district record wins this thing.”
Byrd is at Alleghany next Tuesday and Northside will be here on Friday, April 20. Meanwhile, the Terriers are staying sharp this week by participating in the Heritage Invitational in Lynchburg at Heritage High School. On Tuesday Byrd took an 8-3 win over host Heritage and the Terriers were scheduled to play Appomattox on Wednesday. Rockbridge was also in the tourney, playing the opposite opponents of Byrd. Appomattox beat Rockbridge on Tuesday, 10-3.
Riggs picked up the win in relief on Tuesday, pitching three scoreless innings in relief of Hill, who came out with the score tied 3-3. Alex Brown pitched the seventh as Carr was careful not to overuse his pitchers in a non-district game.
Hill had two more hits to lead the Terriers a the plate and seven others had one hit each. Stickney, Meador and Riggs all had doubles.
With the win Byrd improved to 6-3 overall.