DAYTON — For the third straight year, Clover Hill and Bridgewater are meeting in the Rockingham County Baseball League championship series.
After falling short of capturing the league title in each of the past two seasons, the Bucks took the first step toward avenging those losses with a dominating 13-5 win over the Reds in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series on Sunday at Buck Bowman Park.
The first pitch for the series opener wasn’t thrown until 7:53 p.m. with the league honoring this year’s 2019 Hall of Fame Class — Todd Ashby, Doug Atkins, Rick Engle, Tommie Martz and Mark Siciliano — prior to the game.
Despite the delay, it didn’t have an impact on the sixth-seeded Reds, who entered the championship series arguably as the hottest team in the league after back-to-back sweeps of No. 3 Stuarts Draft and No. 4 Broadway to start the playoffs.
Bridgewater’s Jacob Grabeel led off the game with a single, and after RCBL Most Valuable Player and Fort Defiance alum Corbin Lucas pushed runners into scoring position with a double to deep center, Spotswood graduate and Bridgewater College junior Tucker Garrison grounded out to bring the first run of the game home.
In the ensuing at-bat, Turner Ashby senior Antonio-Florentino Sosa connected on an RBI single to give the Reds a 2-0 lead through just half an inning of play.
The trouble continued for Bucks starter Nick Corbin in the second when he gave up three straight two-out singles to TA senior Nick Griffin, Austin Fitzwater and Grabeel, but the former Buffalo Gap ace was able to get a putout from Grey Sherfey, another Knights alum, to end the inning unscathed.
Clover Hill took a turn loading up the bases in the bottom of that frame with Turner Ashby graduate Tyler Bocock, Riverheads senior Grant Painter and John Siciliano all getting on, but Kevin Kirk grounded into a double play to end the inning and leave the score 2-0.
In the bottom of the third, however, the Bucks didn’t waste their opportunity.
After Alex Knicely, Ross French and Drew Easter filled the bases with a trio of singles off Griffin, Fort Defiance alum Blake Sipe ripped a single into center to even up the score at 2-2.
Bocock then loaded up the bases again with the fifth straight single of the inning for the Bucks. An error by Reds starter Garrison in the ensuing at-bat allowed Easter and Sipe to come home and extend Clover Hill’s lead to 4-2 with no outs.
Painter added an RBI single, French had a two-run single to left and by the time the third inning was mercifully over, the Bucks had scored seven runs on six hits and an error to open up a 7-2 advantage.
That gave Corbin enough insurance to calm down on the mound and it forced Bridgewater to make a change and bring in Trever Mitchell in relief of Garrison.
The move, though, didn’t slow down Clover Hill as Siciliano crushed a two-run double and Kirk had an RBI single to extend the Bucks’ lead to 10-2 through four frames.
The Reds carved into Clover Hill’s lead a bit in the fifth with Lucas and Garrison each connecting on RBI singles to cut the deficit to 10-4, but they still had work to do.
Garrison added one more RBI single in the seventh to cut the lead in half and give Bridgewater one last glimpse of life, but Bocock crushed a two-run homer in the bottom of the frame to make it 12-5 and put the dagger in the Reds.
The two teams combined for 25 hits in the contest.
Sipe, French, Bocock and Sicliano all had two RBIs apiece for the Bucks while Lucas had three hits for the Reds and Garrison had a trio of RBIs.
Bridgewater will look to even up the series tonight at home when it hosts Game 2 at Ray Heatwole Field. First pitch is set for 7:30 p.m.