Purcellville (Aug. 24, 2013) – Despite being out-hit 9-3 Friday night the Greater Loudoun Lions walked off in the bottom of the seventh inning with a 4-3 win over Brazoswood, Tex. in the Babe Ruth 13-15 World Series semifinals at Fireman’s Field thanks to a gutsy pitching performance from Austin Rader, inspiration from injured teammate Hank Biggs and the encouragement of a packed home team stands.
Greater Loudoun doesn’t have much time to rest as they face Westchester, Calif — a 7-0 winner over Saginaw Valley, Mich. in the first semifinal Friday — at 1 p.m. today in the championship game.
With the game tied at 3-3 and the clock already past 11 p.m. Friday, Loudoun had runners on first and second with two outs as Kyle Bowles had singled up the middle with one out and Zackary Costello was hit with a pitch. Brazoswood reliever Kolin Wade looked to send the game into extra innings as he got a strikeout and then coaxed Adam Lockhart into a grounder to third base. With the runners going on two outs the play was at first but the ball skidded away for the Texans fifth error of the contest and caromed down the right field line, allowing Bowles to romp home with the winning run.
Loudoun drew inspiration from injured teammate Hank Biggs, who spent the night in the hospital with a concussion after a violent collision in Tuesday’s game, but was feeling well enough to appear in pregame introductions Friday. While he wasn’t allowed to stay in the dugout, his No. 44 blue jersey hung in the dugout during the game as a reminder to his teammates that they had dedicated taking the title to him.
“We were cautious to speak loudly around him or even hug him,” said Rader. “This tournament is for Hank now.”
Loudoun manager Tim Owen worried about his team’s mental make-up after the incident Tuesday which saw Biggs flown out via helicopter to Fairfax Hospitial.
“After that incident with Hank they were down but luckily we had the day off and then everybody went and saw him. We then had a practice and and team party and they were back,” said Owen.
While Rader was lights out on the first night of the World Series, striking out 13 while allowing just four hits in a 3-1 win over Tallahassee, he had to work harder on Friday, striking out nine but giving up nine hits including three hits in an inning three different times.
“Tonight I didn’t have my best stuff but I’m glad I battled through seven,” Rader said.
With Biggs, who got the start and win in Loudoun second outing, out of the rotation it was important for Loudoun to save some arms for today’s championship game. Look for Christian McDowell, the winner in game three for Loudoun, to get the start today with closer Kaleb Bowman well rested and ready to come in at any time.
With the emotional boost from Biggs in pregame, Loudoun went right out and posted a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.
Daniel McDyre III led off with a walk and then Bowles laid down a nice bunt in front of the plate. When the throw sailed wide, it put two runners on and both were in scoring position after the right fielder’s throw came in high to the plate to prevent McDyre from scoring.
Clayton Baine then stroked a two-run single to center to make it 2-0 Loudoun.
Brazoswood tied it up in the top of the second inning thanks to three hits, two wild pitches, a passed ball and a fly ball that dropped in for an error after it appeared lost in the lights.
Rader settled things down as he picked off a runner at first with runners at the corners and one out and then got a comebacker to strand the runner at third.
Loudoun went right back up with a run in their half of the second. Bowman walked to start and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Rader. With two outs McDyre was clutch, taking the first pitch he saw to right back up the middle for an RBI single.
It stayed 3-2 until the fifth when the Texas squad tied it at 3-3 on a balk. With runners at the corners, Brazoswood looked to finally gain the lead but Rader got their No. 3 hitter to strikeout to end the threat. Rader was tough on the top of the Texas order which went just 1 for 12 in the loss.
Brazoswood threatened again in the sixth as they loaded the bases on three singles but Rader ended the inning with a strikeout to leave all three runners on base.
Owen said what impressed him most about his team was their “resilience”.
Expect Biggs’ blue No. 44 to be hanging in the dugout again today at 1 p.m. as Loudoun tries to make some history.