by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi
The Red Devils batted around for a six-run rally in their last at-bat in a come-from-behind, 7-3, win over Mathews in a Region 1A East quarterfinal game on Memorial Day.
The host Blue Devils held a 3-2 lead heading into the seventh inning when Lancaster blew the game open on a walk, three hits, two errors and a sacrifice. LHS eliminated Mathews from post-season play and moved on to host a semifinal game against Stonewall Jackson on Wednesday (May 31). Seventh-seeded Stonewall Jackson upset second-place Central Lunenburg, 4-3. Lancaster was ranked sixth in the eight-team tournament and Mathews third.
In the other quarterfinals, fourth-ranked Altavista beat fifth-place Surry, 7-5, and top-seeded Windsor narrowly got by eighth-ranked Essex, 2-1. Windsor was scheduled to host Atlavista in a semifinal. The two semifinal winners will meet in the regional final Friday. If Lancaster beats Stonewall Jackson, the Devils would have to travel to either Altavista or Windsor for the championship game but with the semifinal win would earn an automatic trip to the Group 1A tournament.
Lancaster came off a 10-8 loss to Essex in last Friday’s Conference #43 championship to travel to Mathews for the regional quarterfinal Monday. The Red Devils, finishing first in the conference during the regular season and receiving a first-round bye in the conference tournament, edged Colonial Beach in a semifinal game last Wednesday, 1-0, to advance to the conference championship against the Trojans.
Region 1A Quarterfinal
Lancaster wowed the crowds last week with late-game theatrics in all three of their post-season games.
The Devils pulled off a first round regional win with a five-run, seventh inning which started with a lead-off walk by Adam Wilmore. Wilmore advanced to third on an error off a hit to second by Hunter Koonce and Matthew Kleinfelter recorded an RBI with a hard-hit to third to score Wilmore and tie the game at 3-3. With runners on second and third, Spencer Crittenden reached base on an error to load the bases with no outs and set up an RBI single by Nick Wohleking to score Koonce for the go-ahead run.
Lancaster padded its lead with a two-RBI single by Danny Hinson to go up 6-3 then capped the scoring when Hinson scored off a sacrifice fly to right field by Jacob Taft.
The Blue Devils opened the seventh with a single before Lancaster turned a Kleinfelter-to-Hinson-to-Wohleking double play. Chris Cunningham caught a line drive at second for the third out.
Kleinfelter pitched all seven innings for his second win of the week for LHS. He allowed five hits, walked three and struck out six.
At bat, Hinson went 1-for-2 with a walk for two RBIs and a run scored and Wohleking was 2-for-4 with a run and RBI. Brandon Rosalia was 2-for-4.
Mathews broke a scoreless game in the bottom of the second, scoring on a walk and error then took a 2-0 lead with a run in the bottom of the fourth off an error and two-out base hit.
Lancaster pushed a run across in the top of the fifth when Koonce scored from second on a slow-roller down the first base line by Kleinfelter.
Lancaster got out of a bases-loaded and one-out situation in the bottom of the frame when Hinson fielded a grounder and got the force at the plate and Cunningham fielded a grounder for an out at first.
The Devils rode the defensive momentum into the top of the sixth to tie the game at 2-2 when Tae Middleton, running for Wohleking, who singled to lead off, was sacrificed to second on a bunt by Hinson. Middleton went to third on a single by Rosalia and scored on a failed pick attempt at first.
The Blue Devils rebounded to take a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth off a double, single and error and left runners on second and third.
“This was the end of a huge week for Matthew [Kleinfelter] as a leader of our team,” said LHS coach Welby Saunders. “He pitched 14 innings almost perfect baseball and to put together such a run at this point of the season really shows his leadership abilities.”
Conference #43 Championship
A five-run rally in the bottom of the seventh fell just short last Friday night as Essex held on for a 10-8 win in the Conference #43 championship.
Essex blew open a 4-3 lead in the top of the frame with six runs to go up 10-3 and seemingly put the game out of reach. But Lancaster answered with a base-clearing double by Wohleking and a sacrifice by Rosalia. The Devils actually left the tying runs on base.
Lancaster took a one-run lead off a double by Kleinfelter that scored Wilmore in the third but Tim Johnson answered with a lead-off homer in the top of the fourth to tie the game at 1-1.
Essex went up 4-1 in the fifth with a two-run double to the centerfield wall by Justin Lankford and a one-run double to deep center by Takeyo Day.
Taft scored on a Koonce double and Marcus Doggett, running for Gill, came home on a sacrifice fly by Crittenden in the bottom of the fifth to pull Lancaster back within a run, 4-3.
After a scoreless sixth for both teams, the two combined for 11 runs in a wild seventh inning. The Trojans loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the frame then scored two on an error and walk before the Devils found an out. They pushed across four more to jump ahead, 10-3.
Wohleking went 1-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored to lead Lancaster’s offense. Kleinfelter batted 1-for-2 with two walks for a run and RBI and Taft was 1-for-2 with two walks and a run scored.
Crittenden pitched six innings for Lancaster with seven hits allowed, two walks and three strikeouts.
Conference #43 Semifinal
Kleinfelter picked up the win after a pitchers’ dual against Mason Delane of Colonial Beach in the conference semifinal last Wednesday.
Lancaster scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh off a walk and an error, a hard way to win or lose a game that included only three combined hits.
Kleinfelter pitched a complete seven innings, allowing two hits, walking one and striking out seven.
Delane gave up only one hit, struck out 10 and walked three.
“This was two of the top pitchers in the district going at it for seven innings,” said Saunders. “Matthew took the leadership role and was determined not to give up a run.”
Kleinfelter had the only hit for LHS with a one-out single in the bottom of the sixth.
Lancaster scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh after Hinson was hit by a pitch with one out and then with two outs scored from first after Jayson Gill’s grounder to third was thrown over the first baseman’s head.