Jefferson gains Regional tournament berth
SHENANDOAH JUNCTION – Taylor Tennant fanned 10 in his five innings of throwing strikes. Cory Daly unloaded a three-run homer in the first inning. And Dylan McCartney pitched the final two tension-filled innings as Jefferson eased past competitive Hampshire, 6-5, in the championship game of the area’s Class AAA Sectional tournament.
The three seniors were the on-field leaders as the Cougars escaped elimination by winning the final three games of the Sectional after dropping their opener in the event when Hampshire rallied late to erase a two-run lead and go on to win, 4-2.
Tennant and Hampshire’s Collin Sulser were the two starting pitchers after dueling in Jefferson’s first skirmish against the Trojans.
Tennant had five strikeouts through only two Hampshire turns. He had a 3-0 lead to protect when Daly hammered a 3-2 pitch beyond the barrier in left. Before Tennant had measured his 3-2 pitch, Hayden Stang had walked on a 3-2 pitch and Tennant had doubled on a 3-2 delivery that gave Jefferson’s starting pitcher a chance to help his own cause.
Hampshire plated a run on three singles in its half of the third, but Jefferson restored its lead to 5-1 with singles from Zac Rose and Cullen Horowicz before a sacrifice bunt had runners at second and third. A critical passed ball allowed Rose to score and then Chase Anderson delivered a sacrifice fly to get Horowicz home, giving the Cougars a four-run lead.
Hampshire was not finished. By any means.
Tennant’s only walk, drawn by Alex Hott, opened what would quickly become a four-run uprising . . . and gain the Trojans a 5-5 tie.
Jefferson’s first of two errors helped further flame the inning. Two looping, Texas League singles got a run across before Dustin Hott became Tennant’s ninth strikeout victim.
Sulser singled on the ground into shallow right for a run. And Tra Bryson, who would strike out three times, cleverly executed a safety squeeze. And Hampshire had wrought a 5-5 tie out of what had just been a four-run Trojan deficit.
Fielding and mental mistakes cost Hampshire its hard-won tie in the bottom of the fifth.
Tennant led the inning with his third hit, a hard single on the ground to left. Eli Hott, on in relief of Sulser, was on the pitching rubber when faked a throw to first where Tennant was stationed. The fake throw constituted a balk and Tennant moved along to second. When Daly grounded in front of the third base bag, he was thrown out at first, but Tennant moved to third. Tennant drew an off-target throw that pinned itself against the chainlink fence far beyond third base. Tennant scored, and the opportunistic Cougars led, 6-5.
McCartney replaced Tennant as Jefferson’s pitcher. Wes Landis greeted him with a ringing double. Landis was sacrificed to third. With one out, Tristan Everett lifted a foul pop fly near the fence along first base. Tennant, now playing second base, ran down the foul and then ran the ball back in to prevent Landis from trying to score.
McCartney got Eli Hott on an infield tapper to end the threat.
Hampshire’s seventh inning turned tense with the tying run once more reaching safely on a hit. McCartney’s pickoff throw to Rose at first somehow eluded him, with the runner going all the way to third.
There was only one out.
McCartney proceeded to strike out Sulser, keeping the tying run at bay for the moment. Two outs.
With Bryson in a spot where he could have eclipsed McCartney’s shining star, it was the red-headed Jefferson senior who won the evening.
Bryson went down on strikes. Jefferson had survived . . . like it has done down through the decades.
The Cougars had extricated themselves from a on-loss Sectional pit. They had a place in the Regional tournament against Hedgesville.
Three seniors had contributed mightily to the win.