June 14 - No. 3 Stafford battled back from a seventh-inning deficit and got a little help while halting Hickory’s 19-game winning streak with a dramatic 11-10 win yesterday in the Class 5 state semifinals at RF&P Park in Glen Allen.
After the Hawks (23-2) chased Indians starter Mike Tolson during a four-run inning to take a 10-7 lead in the top of the sixth, Stafford (23-3) cut the deficit to one run with back-to-back RBI singles in the bottom half by Jimmy Baker and Grant Fuller. Tanner Sullvan, on in relief of Tolson, then retired the side in order to set up the seventh-inning dramatics.
Walks to Sullivan and Joe Tolson and a single by Tristan McAlister loaded the bases with two outs against reliever Jaren Snellinger. After a third walk to Jimmy Baker forced in the tying run, Fuller hit a short ground ball back to Snellinger, who tagged courtesy runner Logan Steigerwald attempting to score. But after realizing he had tagged Steigerwald with his glove while holding the ball in his hand, Snellinger wheeled and threw first base. The throw, however, pulled the first baseman off the bag and allowed the game-winning run to score.
“All year, [we’ve played] close games and tough games,” Stafford coach Tommy Harrison wrote via text last night. “We play all seven and finish. [We] find a way.”
As a result, the Indians advanced to today’s championship game and will be seeking the program’s first title when they face Mills Godwin (22-2) at 12:30 p.m. at the University of Richmond. The Eagles defeated Halifax County, 5-4, on a walk-off double by Bryce Safferwich in yesterday’s other semifinal.
Jimmy Baker finished 3-for-4 with three RBI while Elijah Lambros, Joe Tolson and McAlister had two hits apiece. Baker is likely to start on the mound this afternoon.
Below are recaps of the other VHSL state quarterfinal games involving Northern Virginia teams:
Fluvanna County 5, No. 4 Brentsville District 4 - Jacob Critzer hit a walk-off solo home run off Jake DeLisi as the Flying Flucos (22-3) advanced to tomorrow’s Class 3 state championship game against Tabb. The game featured five lead changes, the final one ending the Tigers’ postseason in the state semifinals for a second straight season. Sam Beard hit a solo home run in the first inning and Billy Hoad’s RBI single in the sixth tied the game at 4-4. Collin Reid and DeLisi had back-to-back singles to give the Tigers (21-4) a 3-2 lead in the fifth. Brentsville District was seeking to become the first Prince William County team to win a state championship since 1995, when the Tigers won the Group A title.
No. 5 Riverside 3, Great Bridge 0 - Gunner Canary pitched a five-hit shutout and had seven strikeouts to earn his program-record 11th win as the Rams (18-7) extended their winning streak to 15 games and advanced to this morning’s Class 4 state final against Lafayette (18-7). Carson Swank singled home the game’s first run in the bottom of the third and came around to score in the fifth after drawing a walk, and Ryan Murray’s sixth-inning sacrifice fly provided the game’s final margin. Riverside is playing in a state final for the second time in three years after appearing in the Class 3 championship game in 2017.
Note: The Class 6 state semifinals were postponed to today due to rain in the greater Richmond area. No. 1 Westfield (23-3) will carry a 7-0 second-inning lead into its postponed game against Ocean Lakes (18-6) at 10 a.m., followed by the other semifinal between No. 2 Lake Braddock (24-3) and James River (20-3) at 1 p.m. The championship game will be played at 5 p.m. All three games are at RF&P Park in Glen Allen.
Photo of, clockwise from left, Stafford’s Tucker Sullian by Michael Greene, Sam Beard courtesy of Brentsville District Baseball and Riverside’s Carson Swank by Berl Jones