By Alanna Dvorak
Ashburn, VA (May 15, 2015) – In its past 21 conference games, the Stone Bridge High School varsity baseball team has lost just one game -an April 28 2-1 extra innings contest against Potomac Falls. Going into their May 14 home game against the Panthers, the Bulldogs had already clinched the number one seed in the upcoming Conference 21 baseball tournament.
But the Panthers still had some late season tricks up their sleeves.
Once again, Potomac Falls (5-5, 11-8) upset the Ashburn powerhouse 4-1 to cap off a four game win streak to end the season.
“This is the best feeling I’ve had,” Potomac Falls pitcher Spencer Buehler said. “We wanted these guys from the beginning of the season, and we got them twice.”
The Bulldogs (8-2,15-5) got off to a quick start on the breezy Thursday evening. Leadoff junior John Callahan got on base with a walk to start off the top of the first. Callahan’s big lead at first baited pitcher Spencer Buehler into attempts to pick off the runner; on his third try, an errant throw flew past first baseman Michael Smith, enabling Callahan to take second. A sacrifice bunt from senior Eric Johnson moved Callahan to third and a wild pitch later in the inning allowed Callahan to steal home.
The Panthers reacted quickly, however, getting on the board the following inning. Smith took first on a walk, stealing second during Drew Daczkowski’s subsequent at bat. Daczkowski then took first after being hit by a pitch. Designated hitter Corey Miller advanced both base runners with a sacrifice fly to center field. Then, during sophomore Nick Sweger’s at bat, a wild pitch plated Smith. As Bulldog catcher Eli Quiceno and pitcher Justin Zaferakis scrambled to find the ball, Daczkowski was also able to make it home to put the Panthers up 2-1
“We have a rule where we run the bases risky but not stupid,” Potomac Falls coach Joe Terango said. “We took some risks tonight, and it paid off for us.”
While both teams managed to get players on base over the course of the next four innings, staunch defenses prevented any additional runs until the sixth.
In a strange bout of repetition, the sixth inning scoring drive for the Panthers began much the like one in the second, albeit with reliever Lawton Riggs. Once again, Smith took first after a walk, followed by Daczkowski reaching first after being hit by pitch. Junior Tyler Cowden’s attempted sacrifice bunt led to a fielder’s choice and an out at third. But a hard Miller grounder past first baseman Tanner Karafa scored Daczkowski and padded the Panther lead. A quick strikeout and a short dribbler in front of the catcher for an out at first stopped the bleeding for the Bulldogs.
The Panthers weren’t done for the night, adding another run in the final inning. With two outs on the board, sophomore Justin Robles launched a double to left field. After a misguided attempt to steal left Robles in a pickle, he managed to take third after the infielders’ attempt to trap him resulted in a dropped ball. A single to left field from Smith brought Robles home for one more run for the Panthers.
Potomac Falls pitcher Spencer Buehler pitched a complete game, earning five strikeouts while giving up two walks and three hits and also hitting three batters. Zaferakis got four strikeouts, five walks but just one hit in five innings for the Bulldogs; Riggs, the reliever, allowed three hits, one walk and earned one strikeout in his two innings of play.
“[Spencer] has been in relief all year and he’s been waiting for a big start,” Terango said of his righty. “Tonight was the night for him, and he pitched a gem.”
Prior to the start of the game, Stone Bridge dedicated its press box to James “JT” Timbers, a former Stone Bridge baseball assistant coach who died from abdominal cancer in 2010.
“JT loved his players and taught them about life and the great game of baseball. His contagious smile and attitude will always shine down on the bulldog Baseball field,” said Stone Bridge coach Sam Plank in a prepared statement read in between innings.
Both teams now prepare for the Conference 21 baseball tournament, which begins next week. Stone Bridge will enter the tournament as the number one seed, Potomac Falls as the number three.
“Our season has been up and down through out. Just recently in the past couple of weeks, we’ve started coming together as a team and as a club and the kids have really started believing in themselves,” Terango said. “We feel that we’re peaking at the right time, and we’re going to make a nice run in the playoffs. I hope so anyway.”
You better believe both teams will be ready for “game time” as they enter the VHSL Conference playoffs!
Stay tuned to Viva Loudoun for a full photo gallery by Steven Holland.
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