By Owen Gotimer
Viva Loudoun College Editor
Leesburg (May 28, 2014) – After taking a one-run lead into the sixth inning, and backed by a solid performance from senior pitching ace Zack Hopeck, the Heritage High School varsity baseball team fell, 4-3, to the reigning VHSL AA state champion Sherando Warriors in the Conference 21 semifinals on May 28 in Leesburg.
“You have got to play perfect ball against a good club like Sherando. We didn’t make every play but made them most of tonight that kept us in the game,” Heritage head coach Ryan Price said. “Their aggressive base running certainly helped them and allowed them to take two runs and put them ahead for good there.”
Those two aggressive runs came in the top of the sixth and top of the seventh inning when Sherando’s senior Reid Entsminger and junior Andrew Loudan scored on groundballs in the infield to put the Warriors up late in the game. Entsminger – who scored from second on an infield single – said head coach Pepper Martin told him to keep running hard around third.
“The ball was in the hole, and I knew the third baseman wouldn’t get to it. Coach Martin just said keep going, keep going,” Entsminger said. “I thought he was out at first so I slowed down part way down the line and next thing you know I saw the safe [call], and I was like ‘oh better run fast again because I’m stuck in no-man’s land.’ Luckily I got there fast enough to get the go-ahead run.”
The Pride answered Entsminger’s heads up base running in the bottom of the sixth when Heritage senior pinch runner Niko Soto stole second and third base before tagging up and scoring on a sacrifice fly by sophomore Carsten Wahl.
“When they scored a run, we’d have an answer for it, and when we’d score run they’d have an answer for it. It was going back and forth,” Martin said.
In the seventh, Loudan scored the eventual game-winning run on another infield groundball.
“We’re just trying to answer back. They’d put up a run, and we just answered back every time,” Entsminger said. “That’s how we stuck in the game tonight. We just somehow managed to manufacture runs. It was nice to see that we had fight in us and that we weren’t going to let ourselves get down. We just wanted to keep playing.”
The Warriors’ comeback was necessary as the Pride ace Hopeck cruised through the first five innings striking out seven Sherando batters in his first four frames.
“We were getting behind in the count early in the game. When you get behind in the count against [Hopeck] you’re in trouble,” Martin said. “He spots his fastball well, he has an outstanding slider and an excellent breaking ball. He has four pitches that he throws well.”
Freshman catcher Kyle Gotimer made his varsity debut, catching Hopeck for the first time in his career and noted that catching Hopeck was a huge adjustment from catching at the junior varsity level.
“It was not as difficult as I expected because he located very well,” Gotimer said. “I kept thinking that as long as he hit his spots, we could get through the night because he’s one of the top pitchers in the county.”
Hopeck made one mistake on the night when in the fourth inning he left a cutter over Entsminger’s sweet spot, and the senior hit a fly ball over the left field fence.
“I knew a fastball was coming eventually so I just sat on it and swung the bat,” Entsminger said.
Even with the home run, Hopeck allowed only two earned runs through his seven-inning complete game in his final outing in a Heritage Pride uniform.
“He gave us a good foundation, good expectations for the younger kids: we expect to compete every solid year,” Price said. “It’s been three single years; it’s the first year we haven’t been to the region since . He’s a horse. I’m going to miss him a lot.
Hopeck 1-4, RBI
Taylor BB, R
Richards BB, sac bunt
Keiper BB, SB
Smith 1-3, RBI
Wahl 2 BB, sac fly, R, RBI
Soto R, 2 SB
Whitacre 1-3, 3B, BB, R
Henke 1-4, ROE, RBI
Entsminger 2-2, HR, 2B, BB, 2 R, RBI
Marchi sac fly
Loudan 1-3, R
Hopeck L 7 IP, 4 R, 2 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 7 K
Whitacre 5.1 IP, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 H, 5 BB, 5 K
Smallwood W 1.2 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB
Owen Gotimer is a graduate of Heritage High School in Leesburg and will enter his senior year at Syracuse University this fall. Follow Owen on Twitter (@BigO_Gotimer) for up-to-date college signings and news. Contact us if you want Owen to do an article on the college commitment of your favorite local athlete or a story on a Loudoun County graduate playing in college