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Critical comebacks take Cougars into baseball Regional

By Bob Madison - For the Chronicle | Jun 18, 2021

The Cougars baseball team pose with the plaque they won as WVSSAC 2021 "AAA" Baseball Sectional Champions. David Pennock

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Two season-saving, large measurement comebacks carried Jefferson from the brink of disaster right into the Class AAA, Region 2 tournament.

After dropping its initial game in the Sectional tournament — a 4-2 loss to Washington — the Cougars found themselves only three outs from elimination when they took their turn trailing, 5-2, in the bottom of the seventh inning of their next game against the Patriots.

After a three-run rally sent that game into extra innings, Jefferson shut out the Patriots for three straight innings and then scored a game-winning run in the 10th inning, winning 6-5 to reach the championship game of the Sectional.

Washington shoved the Cougars into still another musty corner when it leaped out to a 9-2 lead after the top of the third had been completed.

Not many tournament games are decided in favor of the trailing team when it finds itself covered in the ashes of a seven-run deficit.

But Jefferson made its comeback, starting with a three-run third inning rally that brought it to within 9-5 of the Patriot lead.

Another three-run scoring burst by headway-making Jefferson made it a 9-8 game after four innings.

When Washington added a solo run in the sixth, the Cougars trailed, 10-8.

Jefferson erupted for five more runs to grab a 13-10 lead and head into the seventh with a chance to close out the Patriots.

Washington couldn’t score again, and Jefferson had completed its tournament resurrection with three consecutive wins and a berth in the best-of-three Regional playoff against Martinsburg.

Sammy Roberts had been the pitching savior in the 13-10 victory over Washington. He authored four hitless innings, allowing only one walk and using just 49 pitches to quiet the Patriots.

Cullen Horowicz went 3-for-3, scored four runs and drove in a run with his 15th home run of the 28-game season. Zac Rose was 2-for-3 with three RBIs and two runs scored.

Jefferson outhit the Patriots, 13-7, in that deciding game but made four errors to jeopardize its chances.

In the fragile comeback win where the Cougars trailed, 5-2, going to the bottom of the seventh, Jefferson outhit Washington, 12-8, led by leadoff man Connor Bailey’s 3-for-4 evening. Roberts went 2-for-3 with two runs scored, while Griffin Horowicz was 2-for-4 and Sam Wabnitz 2-for-5.

Griffin Horowicz pitched an effective three innings, allowing three hits and one earned run while fanning three. Riley Vadasz was the winning pitcher, going six innings, doling out only four hits and one earned run. He threw 79 pitches in subduing the Patriot lineup.

Earlier in the double elimination tournament, Jefferson had beaten Hampshire, 2-1, in eight innings behind the stingy pitching of sophomore Daquon Shipe (4.1 innings, two hits, no runs and three walks) and Rose (3.2 innings, two hits, a run, five strikeouts and a walk). Rose received credit for the win when Jefferson scored an unearned run in the eighth inning. Wabnitz had two of Jefferson’s four hits,

After all the relieved cheering had stopped and the future Regional came into a clearer view, Jefferson showed an overall record of 25-3, a team batting average of .336 and a team ERA of 2.65.

No fewer than seven pitchers had appeared in at least eight games and showed Vadasz with 43 innings pitched, Rose with 31.2 innings and Shipe with 31 innings.

Shipe had a 5-0 record, Vadasz went 6-1, Roberts had a 5-1 record going into the Regional against Martinsburg and Rose was also 5-1.

Will Ricketts appeared in eight games as a pitcher and went 3-0, while Kamien Gonzalez pitched in nine games with a 1-0 record and 1.95 ERA. Griffin Horowicz had a 0.98 ERA in 21.1 innings and eight pitching appearances.

Offensively, Cullen Horowicz batted .429, had 39 RBIs, 37 runs scored, a .556 on-base percentage and a unique 1.095 slugging percentage. Rose takes his .368 batting average in against Martinsburg. He homered four times, had 28 RBIs, a .480 on-base percentage and .578 slugging percentage.

Roberts batted .371, had an on-base percentage of .451 and a slugging percentage of .500. Connor Bailey hit .352 and scored 32 runs from his usual leadoff spot in the Cougar batting order. He stole 13 bases, drew 15 walks and posted an on-base percentage of .454. Regan Will Allinger batted .342 with 26 RBIs and a .473 on-base percentage. Gonzalez hit .333, scored 20 runs and drove in 18. Peyton Corwine batted .320, scored 20 runs, had 18 RBIs and stole 18 bases.

Sam Wabnitz batted .298 and had 10 RBIs. Griffin Horowicz hit .286, had 19 RBIs, a .429 on-base percentage and .547 slugging percentage. Kellen Kinsler posted a .381 batting average, stole 15 bases, scored 31 runs and had a .576 on-base percentage. Mark Smith had a .412 batting average, a .643 on-base percentage and a .647 slugging percentage.

The Cougars scored 254 runs in 28 games and had 28 home runs. In 185 innings pitched, the team’s pitchers combined for 218 strikeouts and walked a total of 94 batters.

The Regional was scheduled to open at Jefferson last Monday and move to Martinsburg on Tuesday. If a third and deciding game was necessary, it was to be played back at Jefferson on Wednesday.

Two improbable and sterling comebacks had gotten the Cougars into the Regional event. And kept their season moving forward.