Mariners headed to VBL title game
by Gary Williams
|Travis Crump scores the winning run on an RBI single by Luke Saunders in the Mariners’ 4-3 win over the Richmond Rams, which advanced the Mariners to this Sunday’s championship game.|
The Middle Peninsula Mariners (16-4) won their first two games of the Virginia Baseball League playoffs to advance to the tournament championship game this Sunday, July 27, at 1 p.m. at Essex High School.
In Sunday’s title game, the Mariners will face the Tappahannock Tides, Richmond Rams or Richmond Astros. With a win, the Mariners would claim their first ever Virginia Baseball League Championship.
Middle Peninsula is the only unbeaten team left in the double-elimination playoff, and would have to lose twice Sunday to be denied the crown.
On Saturday, Middle Peninsula defeated the Tappahannock Tides 12-1, and on Sunday they downed the Richmond Rams 4-3.
Mariners 12, Tides 1
On Saturday night the Mariners began their playoff run with a 12-1 victory overthe Tides. Shortstop Blake Williams scored the only run for the Tides in the top of the first on a home run to center field.
Williams has hit a home run for the Tides in every Mariners’ home game against the Tides the past two seasons.
The Tides did not hold their lead for long as Middle Peninsula scored 2 runs in the bottom of the first. Travis Crump led off with a walk and was followed by a James Moore single.
Luke Saunders then stepped to the plate and delivered a two-run double, putting the Mariners up 2-1.
Middle Peninsula starting pitcher Matt Tiller (4-1) found his rhythm and did not allow another run in the game. Tiller went 4 2/3 innings allowing one run on 4 hits while striking out 6.
The Mariners blew the game open in the bottom of the second, scoring 6 runs to take an 8-1 lead. Just as soon as Tappahannock walked the bases loaded, Luke Saunders cleared them with a 3-run double. Bryan Hannum and Scott Crump followed with RBI doubles. Drew Hooper capped off the inning with a run scoring single.
Brothers Travis and Scott Crump got the long ball working in the bottom of the third. T. Crump hit a solo shot to center field, and later in the inning S. Crump hit a 3-run home run to nearly the same spot. This put the Mariners up by a final score of 12-1.
Matt Tiller earned the win for the Mariners. Bryan Hannum used his “Eephus pitch” to record the final out of the game.
Offensively for the Mariners, L. Saunders had 2 doubles, 5 RBIs, and a walk; S. Crump, home run, double, 4 RBIs; T. Crump, home run, RBI, 2 walks; James Moore, single; Bryan Hannum, a double, 2 singles, an RBI; Hooper, single and RBI; J.C. Mosicki, walk; Dallas Wagner, walk.
Mariners 4, Rams 3
On Sunday Middle Peninsula took on the Richmond Rams who were the other undefeated team left in the tournament. The temperature was near 100 degrees and the Mariners were beginning to feel the effects of a 3-game weekend.
Richmond took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a sacrifice fly after an error and a walk.
Things then began to get interesting for the Mariners when starting pitcher William Saunders was forced to leave the game because of a large cut on his right index finger. Middle Peninsula turned to Jonathan Somers to take on the pitching duties. The first batter Somers faced hit a run-scoring single to left to give Richmond a 2-0 lead.
In the top of the third inning, Somers had to leave the game with a heat-related illness and the Mariners went to recent addition Dallas Wagner to finish out the game.
The Mariners struggled at the plate during the first 5 innings as they scattered 3 hits and did not push across a run.
The Rams padded their lead in the top of the sixth when a run scored on a wild pitch and they looked poised to win and advance to the title game.
Middle Peninsula, however, had other ideas. The Mariners took advantage of 4 consecutive walks in the bottom of the sixth to push across a run and load the bases for Hannum, who then hit a 2-run single to leftfield which tied the game 3-3.
After a scoreless seventh, the game went into extra innings. Richmond got a runner to third in the top of the eighth but could not bring him home.
T. Crump stepped up to the plate for the Mariners in the bottom of the eight and ripped a single to center. Crump then stole second base, putting himself in scoring position with one out. After James Bierlein flew out to deep center, Luke Saunders came through again with a single down the left field line scoring Crump from second. This gave Middle Peninsula a 4-3 win and a berth in the Virginia Baseball League Championship game.
Over the three games this weekend for the Mariners, L. Saunders went 7 for 10 with 4 doubles, 11 RBIs, and two walks.
“Luke has just been on fire this summer.” said Mariners manager Garland Harrow. “He’s a great ballplayer and I hope he stays hot for the championship game.”
Wagner picked up his first win as a Mariner against the Rams. He hurled 5 2/3 innings and yielded no earned runs and 3 hits with 7 strikeouts. Saunders went 1 2/3 innings, allowing 2 runs on no hits and 5 walks. Somers pitched 2/3 of an inning.
Offensively for the Mariners, T. Crump had 2 singles, a walk, and 2 stolen bases; Bierlein, walk; L. Saunders, single, 2 RBIs, walk; Hannum, single, 2 RBIs, walk; David Smiy, single; Moore, single, stolen base; and J.C. Mosicki, walk.