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Bridgewater Seeks 2nd State Title In 3 Years
BRIDGEWATER – Already with four home runs and a big lead in the District 3 baseball championship game, Bridgewater sent Koice Quintanilla to the plate with the bases loaded. Bridgewater wasn’t done scoring yet.
Quintanilla’s grand slam off Strasburg highlighted a 31-2 win Friday that featured a season high in runs and hits (25) as the Bridgewater 11- and 12-year-old all-stars catapulted themselves back into the state tournament for the first time since most of these same players won the state title over West Springfield as 9- and 10-year-olds.
Their first game in this year’s state tournament on Friday in Lynchburg?
“They’ve got a really strong team,” Bridgewater coach Alan Moyers said. “They won 10-11 states last year and went on to the regional, so that will be a really tough matchup right off the bat.”
Playing in Pool C, Bridgewater will face Louisa on Saturday at 6 p.m. and West Moreland Community on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. The top two teams will advance to the single-elimination round, which starts Monday with the quarterfinals.
Bridgewater isn’t the only local team turning heads:
n Grottoes avenged a 10-8 loss in its first game Monday with a 15-2 win over Central Accomack to win the Intermediate Little League state championship for 11- to 13-year-olds. Coached by Chip Alt, Grottoes will report to the regional tournament at Spring Hill, Tenn., on Friday and begin play Saturday.
n Broadway’s 9-10 all-stars will compete in their second straight state tournament in Richmond, beginning at noon Thursday against York County. Coached by Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson, Broadway boasts a strong-hitting team with four returners led by Bryce Suters, including Tanner Lantz, Bryson Lutz and Gauge Allebaugh.
n Meanwhile, Broadway’s 11-12 softball all-stars improved to 4-0 with an 11-7 comeback win over Richmond County in the state quarterfinals. Overcoming an early three-run deficit and holding on late, Broadway advanced to play District 1 champion Saltville (4-0) in the state semifinals today at 6 p.m. in Leesburg.
Seeking similar success, Bridgewater’s 11-12 all-stars haven’t seen West Springfield since their comeback to force extra innings and then win 5-3 in the 9-10 state-title game in 2011.
Last summer, Moyers said the team decided to play up as a young squad in the main 11-12 division – the one highlighted by a nationally televised Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. – rather than be an older squad in the youngest division.
“We had eleven 11-year-olds and two 12-year-olds, so we had a really young team,” Moyers said. “… It was a chance for us to prepare and play against older kids.”
Now, Bridgewater is back.
Back in the state tournament. Back to bashing the ball. Back to showcasing its team chemistry that began forming as 6-year-old teammates with the Valley Diamond Dawgs – a travel team that supplies over half of Bridgewater’s 13 all-stars.
But a return to states does come with added pressure.
“There’s a lot of expectations of this group,” Moyers said. “You know, they’ve done it once and people from our area look at them and expect them to do it again. That puts that added pressure on those kids, which makes it tough. But it’s a great, hardworking group of kids. That’s their aspirations is to win another state championship. They definitely think they can do it, and we definitely think they can do it, too.”
Ten of Bridgewater’s players experienced the state-championship win two years ago.
“The chemistry is there,” said third baseman Waring Garber, who is also the team’s ace pitcher.
Second baseman/outfielder Tanner Moyers and first baseman/outfielder Mason Kimbrough – the team’s only left-handed pitcher and thrower – both believe confidence at the plate has propelled Bridgewater to a pristine 7-0 record this year. In total, the all-stars have scored 109 runs while allowing just 17.
“We always, always were able to have that one big inning that separated us from the other teams,” Alan Moyers said. “… That’s how we play. We’re an offensive team. We’re aggressive. We like to make things happen.”
Just look at Friday’s district-clinching win as proof. It was also a statement, Moyers said, to show everybody that “these little towns are for real, that we can play baseball like the big towns.”
Tanner Moyers and cleanup-hitting Kimbrough each went 3-for-4 with at least one home run on Friday. Moyers had two. Garber also knocked one out of the park a day after striking out 14 in six innings of a complete game one-hitter to beat Strasburg 9-0. In that first meeting with Strasburg, Zach Hedrick homered.
Can Bridgewater keep up the power hitting in Lynchburg? While the competition level might be elevated, Bridgewater’s big bats will have the luxury of a smaller field.
Bridgewater has played six of its seven all-star games in Luray on fields that measure “the maximum 225” feet to the center-field fence, Alan Moyers said. The only other game was played at a park in Front Royal that spanned 200 feet. The fences at Lynchburg will be 180.
“It’s gonna give us a lot more confidence, but we also gotta get the fence out of our eyes and just hit base hits,” said Tanner Moyers, a right-hander who bats lefty.
The long balls are appropriate in retrospect as Alan Moyers had new practice t-shirts made for Bridgewater this summer that aimed to re-emphasize team camaraderie through the words of Babe Ruth, a home run icon. Instead of names or jersey numbers on the back, the all-stars instead found a quote by Ruth scribbled in white lettering on their blue shirts.
It read: “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest individual stars, but if they don’t play together, the club ain’t worth a dime!”
That’s the motto for Bridgewater, which finished as the runner-up to Florida at a regional invitational in West Virginia two years ago. Selfish play last year, Tanner Moyers said, may have cost them a state trip. But this year, Bridgewater appears to be a swing away from putting up a crooked number on the scoreboard.
“Just getting that first hit just sparks it all,” said Garber, who bats third behind leadoff hitter Addison Griffin and Jacob Flick.
Of course, a few home runs like Quintanilla’s grand slam wouldn’t hurt, either.
“That really gets you going,” Moyers said smiling.