SHS Wins Valley, 11-6

Posted: May 25, 2013

Spotswood’s Jimmy Miller hits a single in the fourth inning of the Valley title game Friday in Bridgewater.
Spotswood’s Tucker McCoy delivers to Turner Ashby’s Evan Hanifee during the Valley District tournament title game Friday. (Photos by Michael Reilly)
BRIDGEWATER – For the umpteenth time this season, an opponent elected to intentionally walk Spotswood High School’s Austin Nicely. Stepping in from the on-deck circle on a cold, windy night, senior third baseman Jimmy Miller didn’t seem to mind the added pressure.

Miller connected on two-run singles with the bases loaded in both the third and fourth innings, drove in five runs and pitched four innings of relief for good measure as the top-seeded Trailblazers earned their first Valley District tournament title, defeating No. 2 Turner Ashby 11-6 on Friday night.

“Jimmy just had the whole night, getting it done from the mound, from the plate,” said Nicely, who was named the league’s Pitcher of the Year. “I think it was just good for a senior captain… to have a game like this in a big moment like this. It was huge. We needed it to get the win tonight.”

Nicely was limited to the designated hitter role after rolling his right ankle while rounding second base during Tuesday’s semifinal win over Waynesboro, which will represent the Valley in the Region III tournament with SHS (17-3) and TA (17-5). SHS first-year head coach Marcus Davis said Nicely was “making progress” but would be limited until he was cleared to play at 100 percent.

Spotswood finally got the perfect ending to a district campaign, and it will host a regional game Tuesday as the No. 2 or No. 3 seed. The Knights – who had won six of the previous eight district baseball tournaments – may also host a regional game Tuesday as a hopeful No. 4 seed.

“TA is obviously the program we’re trying to model ours after,” Davis said. “We’re trying to reach places they’ve been.”

Previously, the Blazers had not even reached the district championship game when sharing or winning the league pennant in 1999 and 2012. That made Friday’s title win all the more sweet.
“We weren’t very focused starting off, but once we saw them score three runs in the third inning, we focused back up and got the job done,” said Miller, who celebrated with a blue lollipop and team pictures.

After the game was suspended overnight because of lightning, TA junior third baseman Evan Hanifee – the Valley’s Player of the Year after leading the league in steals and all three triple crown categories – got it going again with a double in the top of the third inning. It was the first of three straight hits for the Knights, who took a 3-1 lead.

SHS responded immediately with a four-run inning.

“We wanted to come out and get a shutdown inning, kind of keep the momentum on our side,” Evan Hanifee said. “But yeah, that kinda took the air out of our sails.”

Stringing together five singles, including a leadoff infield hit by catcher Garrett Lam, the Blazers retook the lead for good. They added four more after batting around in the fifth to take an 11-5 lead.

“There’s never enough [runs],” said Miller, who struggled to find the strike zone at times but struck out five batters. “So, we were just there. Keep hitting and hitting and hitting. Don’t let up.”

Miller earned the win, allowing three runs on four hits with three walks.

Spotswood led 1-0 before the game was suspended Thursday, courtesy of Logan Phelps’ RBI single that plated Miller, who reached on a leadoff walk in the second inning.

Both starting pitchers – SHS’s Jordan Maddra and TA’s Trent Abernathy – were unable to pitch Friday due to new pitching rules, which require a mandatory day of rest after two innings of work. Junior lefty Tucker McCoy only pitched the third inning on Friday in a predetermined decision by Davis. Before it was over, TA cycled in five different pitchers, with two separate stints for Luke Shiflett.

“We were asking guys to do things they hadn’t done,” TA coach Sean Hanifee said. “[Brandon] Liskey was a reliever and we essentially asked him to be a starter after the restart. Jordan [Showalter], a starter, we asked him to be a reliever. We just put guys in position that they aren’t accustomed to. That’s basically what I think happened to us.”

Of course, the season could be far from over for the Knights, who are seeking their seventh state title.

“Our goal at the onset of the season wasn’t to win the district title,” said Evan Hanifee, who, like his teammates, had the word “seven” spelled out on the back of his baseball cap. “It was to go further than that.”

Turner Ashby            003 021 0 –   6   9 1
Spotswood                014 240 x – 11 13 0
Abernathy, Liskey (3), Shiflett (3), Showalter (5), Shiflett (5), B. Hanifee (6) and Hedrick; Maddra, McCoy (3), Miller (4) and Lam. W—Miller. L—Liskey. HR—none.