Rose slams door on Bulldogs after Vadasz blanks them
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Jefferson had the pitching. And it had a grand slam home run and two-run blast as well. Add to those game-winning ingredients the confidence it had gained in beating Martinsburg twice during the regular season and it’s a path that can be followed to another Class AAA, Region II baseball championship.
In sending the Bulldogs out of the postseason by scores of 7-0 and 6-1, the Cougars improved their overall record to 27-3, and more importantly, gained one of the four berths in this week’s big-school state tournament in Charleston.
Classic low-run, low-hit pitching was in the forefront of the Jefferson state tournament-gaining scheme.
In the first game of the Regional, senior righthander Riley Vadasz ran his record to 7-1 by mastering the Martinsburg batters with 5.1 innings of four-hit pitching. The lone problem — and even it was not much to worry about — was high school baseball’s pitch count which limits any pitcher to 110 pitches in a game. Vadasz had to be lifted after throwing 108 pitches and with Martinsburg sitting on the scoreboard with no runs. He fanned eight and walked four and zealously protected Jefferson’s 4-0 lead after only two innings. Griffin Horowicz recorded the final five outs while using 40 pitches himself. He surrendered just one hit.
Jefferson’s two first-inning runs came on Cullen Horowicz’s two-run homer. Horowicz was subsequently given three intentional walks as the game moved toward Martinsburg’s eventual defeat.
The lone Cougar with as many as two hits was shortstop Kamien Gonzalez, who went 2-for-3 with two runs scored. Jefferson manufactured 15 base runners when combining hits, walks and Bulldog defensive errors.
Usual lead-off man Connor Bailey continued his valuable on-base skills by getting another hit and a walk. In the next night’s 6-1 win in Martinsburg, Bailey continued to pain the opposition with another hit, two RBIs and another walk. In Jefferson’s six postseason games, Bailey had at least one hit in all six of them.
With senior left-hander Zac Rose applying a tourniquet to any Martinsburg scoring valve, the Cougars made the most of a lone third-inning run to hold a scant lead by mid-game. In the top of the fifth, Rose eased the pressure considerably when he drilled a grand slam homer that saw him greeted at home plate with everything except a ticker tape parade.
Leading, 6-0, Rose took a shutout into the seventh, but could not get a compete game when he reached the 110-pitch limit. His pitch total was expanded greatly by his 12 strikeouts, seemingly a tradeoff he and the team would gladly accept. Gonzalez got the final out, and Jefferson was off to its first Charleston-based state tournament since it posted back-to-back state championships in 2015 and 2016. There was no state tournament in 2020.
Martinsburg’s season ended with it showing a 22-9 record.
Meanwhile, Jefferson became a member of what is the most highly-touted, highly decorated and most talent-laden foursome of teams ever to populate the big-school field at any West Virginia state baseball tournament.
St. Albans won the last state tournament held in 2019, Hurricane claimed state titles in both 2014 and 2018 and comes in with 30 straight wins. And Bridgeport won the last six straight state Class AA championships before moving to the big-school ranks this year.