Gap Beats ERHS
Eagles 15-4 After 7-4 Loss
ELKTON – Just before taking the mound in relief, Buffalo Gap High School’s Tyler Wilcher was drilled for the second time by East Rockingham starting pitcher Noah Brown – on the first pitch of the game and on Brown’s first offering of his third plate appearance in the fifth inning.
The senior second baseman said he took advantage of the extra adrenaline.
Wilcher scored a go-ahead run in the fifth – one of three unearned runs for Gap – and the Bison added three insurance runs in the sixth to defeat East Rock 7-4 on Friday in what could be a Conference 36 semifinal preview.
“It puts everything back into perspective,” said ERHS senior shortstop Shannon Cross, who went 2-for-4. “It [reminds us] we’re not unbeatable. We have to come out and play good ball every night. Nobody’s going to let us beat them.”
Wilcher and third baseman Ben Coffey each went 1-for-2, and senior left fielder Lucas Vetter had a go-ahead two-run double in the third inning for Gap (7-10), which is ranked third in the six-team conference.
The Eagles (15-4) had already locked up the No. 2 seed, earning a bye into the conference tournament semifinals, along with top-seeded Riverheads. After wrapping up its regular season against Stuarts Draft on Tuesday, ERHS will host the winner of the 3-6 matchup the following week with a 2A East regional berth on the line.
Timely hits were a missing component in close games this season for Gap, including two one-run losses to undefeated Riverheads. Closing the game out had been another problem that the Bison solved against East Rock.
“Throughout the year, we’ve played five innings and not seven,” said Wilcher, who allowed one unearned run on two hits in 2 2/3 innings of relief. “It’s always been close games and the other team just spreads out, so I’m glad to be on the other side this time.”
Wilcher wasn’t thrilled to be hit by two pitches but was glad it helped his team retake the lead for good, 4-3 in the fifth.
“He helped me out. No hard feeling about that,” Wilcher said. “I mean, he gave me some adrenaline when I got up to the mound, but that’s about it. Just gave me a lot of adrenaline.”
Gap coach Chris Thompson was upset after his team’s leading hitter was hit twice with no warnings issued.
“Why are you hitting my best player twice? Why does blue let that happen?” Thompson said.
Scott said neither of the two pitches that struck Wilcher was on purpose.
“It was a two-seamer that just got away from him,” Scott said. “Those things happen. It’s high school baseball, man. We’re trying to throw strikes. We’re not trying to do anything other than throw strikes.”
Coffey’s first hit of the season started a three-run rally for Gap in the third with one out. Wilcher followed with a single and starting pitcher Matt Woods tied the game with an RBI single to right field. One batter later, Vetter belted his double to give the Bison a 3-1 lead.
After stranding two runners in the bottom of the third, East Rock answered in the fourth.
Consecutive two-out hits tied the game at 3-3 as Brown doubled and designated hitter Eriq Jackson drove a two-run single to left field. But the Eagles wouldn’t score again until the bottom of the seventh and left four runners in scoring position over the final two frames.
Gap senior right-hander Matt Woods got the win in four innings of work, with three strikeouts, and junior left-hander Ian Robbie earned a one-out save.
“I don’t think either team probably felt like their pitchers threw their best game, but they did a great job of minimizing damage or preventing the two-out hits,” Scott said. “I think that’s the biggest difference.”
Buffalo Gap 003 013 0 – 7 7 2
East Rock 100 200 1 – 4 9 2
Woods, Wilcher (5), Robbie (7) and Lotts; Brown, Cross (6) and Hensley. W—Woods (3-0). L—Brown (6-2). S—Robbie (1).