August 11 - Seth Richards and Justin Taylor had to join their Vienna Post 180 teammates late this week at the American Legion Mid-Atlantic Regional in Asheboro, N.C., and the late arrivals didn’t waste any time leaving their mark.
Richards, the recent Oakton graduate who had to take a final for his calculus class earlier this week as a precursor to his freshman year at Villanova, tossed 5.2 innings and limited Brooklawn (N.C.) Post 72 to two runs on four hits over 5.2 innings in a 6-2 win last night at McCrary Park.
The left-hander admitted to not having command of his off-speed pitches - he walked five - but rolled double-play balls in the second and fourth and got two batters to pop out to work out of a bases-loaded jam in the third. It was his fourth win of the summer.
“I had a little problem early, I couldn’t get it across for strike,” Richards said. “But I just had to keep pumping the zone and trying my best.”
Added his manager, Nick Good: “He’s a competitor. He was a little bit around the plate, and I think maybe he was a little bit amped up. But he made some pitches when he needed to.”
After reaching the 105-pitch limit with two outs in the sixth, Richards was relieved by Taylor. The Flint Hill grad has been recovering from a torn rotator cuff in his non-throwing shoulder suffered during his freshman season at Cornell, and he had to finish an internship obligation before joining Post 180 this week. After issuing a bases-loaded walk, Taylor recovered to strike out Jake McNellis on three pitches, then fanned this side in the seventh.
Since joining the team on Friday, Taylor has recorded six strikeouts in two innings over his two relief outings and is 2-for-5 with three runs, two walks, a sacrifice bunt, and also reached when he was hit by a pitch.
“We were fortunate enough to get Justin back,” Good said. “We’ve been patient with bringing him back and healed up and this is what he does. He loves the competition.”
The two pitchers limited Brooklawn’s top two hitters, McNellis and Nick Nocella, to one hit in six at-bats. They had entered with nine hits, five walks and nine RBI between them in the first three tournament games.
With its 16th consecutive win, Vienna (36-2) drew to within a victory of its first-ever appearance in the American Legion World Series. They will play the tournament host, Randolph County (N.C.) Post 45, today at 1:30 p.m., with a playback game to follow should the two-time reigning Virginia champions drop the first contest. Randolph County (34-10), previously a member of the Southeast Region, has advanced to the past two World Series.
Ryan Dooley (South Lakes) remained scorching hot at the tournament, going 2-for-4 with two runs. The Virginia Military Institute recruit is 10-for-16 and has scored 10 runs in the four games. Luke Erdmann (Madison) added two hits and Eric Lingebach (Oakton) reached three times on two walks and a single.
“We’re pretty pumped up,” Richards said of the opportunity to advance to next week’s World Series in Shelby, N.C. “We’re excited to get after it tomorrow with a big crowd against the home team.”
Notable: Zach Perkins (Madison), who tweaked his hamstring the previous night, had a pinch-hit RBI sacrifice fly during a three-run fifth inning … Avery Neaves (South Lakes) doubled and scored in the first inning and is 8-for-13 with three doubles, a home run and 11 RBI in the tournament … Brooklawn (32-11) is one of the country’s most-accomplished programs with 30 state titles since 1954.
Quotable: “It’s been a lot of [physical therapy] all summer, and I’ve just been doing what I can to make a full recovery. This is part of my preparation for the fall. I’m doing what I can do to help out, and these guys are picking us up too.” - Post 180’s Justin Taylor, on his return from a left rotator cuff injury suffered in the spring.
Next: Vienna plays Randolph County for the region championship at 1:30 p.m. today, with a playback game to follow if necessary.
Photo of Seth Richards by Joey Kamide