HARRISONBURG — Bryce Suters stood up from home plate with his thighs covered in dust, took a look at the Broadway dugout and pumped his arms as his teammates burst onto the field.
When the sophomore center fielder stole home in the fourth inning, it was the final run the Gobblers would put on the board and they already had momentum, but it was an accurate representation of the consistent zest they brought to the game and the misfortune Turner Ashby experienced throughout.
“I’m always in [third base coach Danny] Grogg’s ear about stealing home when a lefty is on the mound,” Suters said. “We looked at each other and we knew what each other was thinking. He said, ‘Trust me on this.’
“That was just hype.”
Broadway put on one of its best all-around performances of the season and avenged a loss to the Knights in the regular-season finale with a 5-0 win in the Valley District baseball tournament championship on Friday at Harrisonburg High School.
While the seedings for next week’s Region 3C tournament were already locked in prior to the game even starting — Turner Ashby will serve as the No. 2 seed while the Gobblers will be No. 4 — you wouldn’t have known it by the energy from the BHS dugout throughout.
“Honestly, that’s the energy we needed to have all year,” Suters said. “I think we did have it, but we lost it for a couple of games. We weren’t mentally ready. Today, you could see the difference in our players. That was a momentum starter.”
Broadway’s desire to bring a sense of eagerness from the start was evident when Suters led off the game with a walk followed three straight singles from Ben Reid, Bryce Turner and Justin Lohr allowed the Gobblers to put two runs on the board.
Cole Morris later added a RBI grounder to make it a 3-0 lead before the Knights had even taken a swing.
“From the time they got at the field this afternoon, we felt a looseness and a lot of focus,” Broadway coach Tim Turner said. “It was a little different than the last time we played TA. Starting this morning at school, we knew what was coming and we prepared. They were prepared and they performed and came through.”
On the other side, TA’s bats struggled to catch up to Broadway sophomore Jacob Petersheim, who tossed 6.2 innings — he only came out in the seventh because he hit the Virginia High School League pitch-count limit —and gave up just two hits and four walks while striking out nine.
“Credit to him,” Knights coach Andrew Armstrong said. “He was able to throw three pitches for strikes, commanded the strike zone. Sometimes we helped him out a little bit. But when it comes to pitching, I’ll give credit to a guy that threw his butt off. He was able to keep us quiet tonight.”
The Gobblers got their fourth run when Suters came home on a wild pitch in the second and his steal of home in the fourth signaled that it was going to be Broadway’s night.
Petersheim, meanwhile, continued to cruise and never ran into any trouble.
That was an encouraging sign after he ran into trouble in the last meeting against Turner Ashby, giving up three runs in the fourth despite allowing just one hit.
“Hats off to J.P,” Turner said. “We’ve talked all week about what it takes to win a district tournament championship against a great team like TA. I told our kids that right now is the time of the year where we’ve got to give a little extra. We need a little extra focus, a little extra work at practice, a little extra giddy-up during our games. J.P showed that tonight.”
The Knights never grabbed momentum throughout the game with several out-of-character miscues that so often haunted them early in the regular season coming back into play.
TA was thrown out trying to steal second twice to end an inning, committed three errors and was only able to put six runners on base.
“It was just mental mistakes,” said Knights senior Addison Griffin, who was named the Valley District Player of the Year before the game. “I didn’t feel like we played as a whole team. We’ll come back tomorrow ready to go and get ready for next week. I think we’re ready. We’re a young team, but with a good couple days of practice, we’ll be ready to go.”
Broadway was the team ready to go Friday and Petersheim said having three runs on the board before he even stepped foot on the mound was a big confidence boost.
“When you get a good lead in the first or second inning, you don’t have to worry out there,” Petersheim said. “Our whole lineup lit it up tonight. As the season happens, some people get hot and some people get cold. Everybody has been hot recently.”
After the game, Armstrong gave credit to the Gobblers and said the miscues for the Knights were going to get “cleaned up” over the next couple of days before they host a first-round Region 3C game on Thursday.
With a win, TA could also host a regional semifinal game the following week.
“I’m very confident in this group,” Armstrong said. “Baseball is a funny game where you can come out and play really well one time and the next time you can’t. Broadway was the better team tonight and we’re just getting ready for Thursday.”
After the game, Tim Turner said he wasn’t sure when the last time the Gobblers had won a district baseball tournament title, but said he knew “it has been a long time.”
He said that closing the year on back-to-back losses after winning 15 in a row and being viewed as the best team in the district for most of the year was an eye-opener for his group, but served as motivation for the moment on Friday night.
“It’s something we’ve been getting ready for since last September,” Turner said. “We talk about it every day at practice and we talk about it at our games about getting ourselves prepared and ready. We planned out today to be ready for tonight.”
That moment came when Bryce Turner came in to face the final batter in relief of Petersheim and struck out TA’s Wyatt Campbell to end the game.
“It feels great,” Bryce Turner said. “I feel like it’s a huge confidence booster going into the regional tournament. We worked all season for this. We got it, but we’re not done yet.”
As soon as Turner’s pitch landed in the mitt of Broadway catcher Ben Reid, the bleachers erupted and the players formed a dog pile just in front of the pitchers mound.
After going through the line and shaking hands with the Knights, another celebration ensued in front of the dugout and right in the middle was Suters, smiling as his teammates continued to bring the energy and confidence it displayed all season long.
“We’re confident,” Suters said. “I think we never lost it. We had a couple of hiccups, but as a team we are right where we were at the beginning of the season. We know how far we can go.”