July 21 - Clutch hits by Eddie Eisert and Tristan Gordon and some crafty relief work by Blake Fisher enabled the North to overcome a four-run deficit and beat the West, 7-6, last night to clinch a spot in today’s gold medal game at the Commonwealth Games in Lynchburg.
After the West built a 6-2 lead on starter Nathan Knowles (Yorktown) and reliever Tre Williams (South County), the North bats finally came alive in the top of the fifth. A two-run single by George Mason recruit Thomas Trinca (Centreville) cut the deficit in half and a two-run single by Eisert, the Bishop O’Connell standout committed to N.C. State, pulled the North even.
“In a situation like that and getting the job done, it feels good,” Eisert said.
The big hits loosened up a dugout that was growing frustrated after posting just one run in their loss to the Central earlier in the day.
“One of the things I talked to them about and started fussing about in the third inning was, ‘Quit going up there and trying to kill the ball whenever there’s a guy on third base and let’s move some runners. Quit trying to pull it and let’s go back-side and hit the ball the other way’,” said North coach Mike Covington.
In the bottom of the fifth, Fisher came on for Williams with two outs and the bases loaded. A two-time first-team VISAA Division II all-state selection at Highland School, the right-hander got an inning-ending ground ball. Ben Thomas (Potomac) then led off the sixth by drawing a walk and moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Braden Mack (Potomac). North skipper Mike Covington then inserted Tristan Gordon, who hit .486 with 10 homers and 32 RBI en route to first-team Class 2 all-state honors at Page County, as a pinch hitter for Griffin Boone (Forest Park).
The move paid off, as Gordon laced a go-ahead double to the right-center gap. Fisher could come back on and toss scoreless frames in the sixth and seventh to earn the decision and send the North to today’s gold medal game against the Central.
“Really focused on hitting all my spots, getting down the mound and getting all my mechanics straight,” Fisher said. “It’s great to be back in the gold [medal] game.”
Added Covington: “[Fisher] really competed on the mound. The first day, I was going to use him in long if we had to but Eric [Bohenek] went on that four-inning run and we didn’t have to. I really wanted to save him to help out [in the medal game], but obviously we had to do what we had to do to get there.
“The biggest thing is he came in and threw the ball over the plate.”
Notable: A solo homer by Nathan Cmeyla (Briar Woods) tied the game at 1-1 in the fourth and ended a streak of 23 consecutive plate appearances without a hit by the North dating to the fifth inning of its 10-1 loss to the Central earlier in the day … Eisert finished 2-for-3 with a walk and has four hits at the tournament … The North (2-1) and Central (2-1) will last met for the gold medal in 2017, when the Central snapped the North’s seven-year championship run. The East (1-2) and West (1-2) will play in the bronze medal game this morning … The North, which has trailed at one point in all three games this weekend, has played in the gold medal game in 26 of the 29 years at the Commonwealth Games … Joe Vogatsky (Kettle Run), a James Madison recruit, will start today on the mound.
Quotable: “It would be very easy for Tristan, who is a three-time all-state guy, or Blake, who is an all-state guy, to sit around and pout and be upset. But they all understand that the team goal is to win the gold medal.” - North coach Mike Covington, on his players accepting supporting roles this weekend and taking advantage when given opportunities.
Media: Player of the Game interview with Highland School’s Blake Fisher. Game highlights on the mag’s Twitter page, including Cmeyla’s home run, Gordon’s go-ahead double and Fisher recording the final out.
Next: The North plays the Central at 12 p.m. All games at the tournament are held at Liberty University.
Photo of Eddie Eisert by Joey Kamide