Mother Nature Connects Bruins' Call to Bullpen

June 18 - The unique situation created when rain postponed Thursday’s Class 6 state semifinals and created a one-day, four-team tournament on Friday worked out just fine for Lake Braddock.

With both the semifinal and championship rounds being played on the same day, the Bruins had the option to come back to junior left-hander Jay Cassady - who threw 33 pitches over 2.1 innings in a 9-6 win over James River in the second semifinal - to close out the championship game.

They did, and the move paid off as Cassady tossed 3.2 scoreless innings of relief in a 6-2 win over Westfield.

Had Cassady, who threw a total of 84 pitches between the two outings, reached that pitch count when the semifinals were originally scheduled on Thursday, he wouldn’t have been available for Friday’s final. The Virginia High School League pitching guidelines state that 26-50 pitches would require at least one day of rest. But the rule is based on days, not games, and all pitchers for Friday’s four Class 6 semifinalists were eligible to throw up to 110 pitches whether they came over one or two contests.

Knowing that, Lake Braddock coach John Thomas went to his bullpen earlier than he normally would have when James River took a 3-2 lead on starter Lyle Miller-Green in the fifth inning. Had the game been played Thursday, he’d have been inclined to let Miller-Green - who was 6-0 with five saves, a 1.24 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 56.1 innings this year - work through his struggles after his third walk of the inning forced in the go-ahead run.

“If that was the dynamic, then honestly we probably would have stayed with Lyle longer,” Thomas said.

Instead, he went to Cassady, who got the Rapids’ Michael Rader to ground out with the bases loaded to end the inning. Cassady would be charged with three unearned runs in the sixth, but that came after the Bruins had built a comfortable lead with a seven-run frame in the bottom of the fifth.

Thomas said the conversation between him and his coaching staff between games centered around how to utilize Cassady since he was eligible to pitch in the final, which was to start 90 minutes later.  “One thing we kind of debated as coaching staff is, ‘Do we roll [Cassady] on the front end and use the pitches that he’s got?’,” Thomas said.

He decided to give the ball to sophomore Andrew Schaeb and save Cassady as an option later in the game. Schaeb, making his first start in a month, recorded five strikeouts and worked into the fourth.

“Schaeb’s good,” Thomas said of the young lefty, who was 2-0 with a 2.53 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 27.2 innings. “His whole thing all year was command, his fastball just moves so much. For a lot of teams, he’s one of their guys. But for us, he was getting the ball every other week and that’s tough for a young guy.”

With one out in the fourth, Cassady came on for Schaeb. After Jack Hockett reached on an error to load the bases, he induced a double-play ball to keep the game tied at 2-2. The southpaw would go on to throw three more scoreless frames as the Bruins pulled ahead and won the program’s second state title.

Cassady earned the win in both games, finishing the season 8-1 with a 1.40 ERA in 40 innings.

“I guess it was the same for them with [Danny] Leo,” Thomas said of the Bulldogs’ senior right-hander, who came on in relief of starter Joe Clancy after earning a three-inning save in a 9-7 win over Ocean Lakes in the first semifinal.

The situation worked out for the Bruins, who in a rare occasion for a baseball team, can thank Mother Nature for the assist.

Photos of, from left, Lake Braddock’s Lyle Miller-Green, Jay Cassady and Andrew Schaeb by Gregg Zelkin