July 22 - Joe Vogatsky took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and went the distance as the North held off the Central, 7-4, in a rain-shortened gold medal contest yesterday at the Commonwealth Games in Lynchburg.
The championship is the North’s ninth in 10 years under coach Mike Covington, the longtime skipper at Potomac who has guided the team each year since the Commonwealth Games were first held for baseball in 1991.
“Joe Vogatsky was phenomenal on the mound today, upper-80s bumping 90 [MPH] here and there and with an outstanding slider,” Covington said. “He kept them completely off-balance.”
Vogatsky, the Kettle Run right-hander who has committed to pitch at James Madison, was handed an early lead when the North scored four first-inning runs on Central starter Brandon Eike (Powhatan), a North Carolina recruit. Vogatsky didn’t allow a hit until Bobby Ayscue (Cosby) hit a chopper down the line that third baseman Eddie Eisert (Bishop O’Connell) was unable to backhand in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Three fifth-inning errors led to three unearned runs as the Central cut its deficit to 5-3, and it would pull to within a run an inning later on Aycue’s RBI triple. Unshaken, Vogatsky would fan the next batter to end the sixth, his seventh strikeout of the day.
“We made a couple errors and got him in trouble, and he bounced back and got a couple punchouts to get himself out of it,” Covington said. “I was really impressed by him.”
Added Vogatsky, who also tossed a scoreless inning to close Friday’s 11-4 win over the East: “I was locating my fastball very good and the offspeed was working. The slider was working really good and the change-up was dropping and hitting its spots. I just keep throwing my pitches and eventually they’re going to make the plays, and they did.”
In the top of the seventh, it was his teammates’ turn to pick him up. Tristan Gordon (Page County) and Blake Fisher (Highland School) hit back-to-back RBI singles to give the North two insurance runs, which would provide the final margin when the game was called with two outs following a lengthy weather delay.
Gordon finished 2-for-3 with a walk, while Braden Mack (Potomac) reached in all three plate appearances and Thomas Trinca (Centreville) added two hits.
“Jumping out 4-0 right away I thought relaxed the kids,” Covington said. “Their confidence level and their determination really showed today in their language in the dugout.”
Notable: Earlier yesterday, the West beat the East, 5-4, in the bronze medal game … Prior to yesterday’s rain, the weekend yielded scorching temperatures in the mid-and high-90s that reached well into triple digits on the artificial turf playing surface at Liberty University. “The kids showed a lot of toughness being able to battle through four games in three days with a workout under those conditions,” Covington said … Eisert, Fisher and Nathan Cmeyla (Briar Woods) were also on the North’s gold medal-winning team last summer … The North hit .324 (36-for-111) with a .435 on-base percentage at the tournament, averaging 6.5 runs in the four contests … Trinca was 6-for-16 with a team-high six RBI over the weekend, while Mack reached base seven times, going 4-for-6 with two RBI, two walks, a hit by pitch and two sacrifice bunts. Tre Williams (South County) went 5-for-12 and Gordon, Eisert and Cmeyla each had four hits … The game marked the end of Central skipper Bill Pelot’s long tenure at the Games. The former Louisa County coach has been with the Central as an assistant or the head coach for all 29 years of the tournament.
Quotable: “It was a good team effort all-around … it was a really fun experience. The guys are good, and we all hung out and bonded really well. A very talented group.” - Joe Vogatsky, on his experience with the North team this weekend at the Commonwealth Games.
Media: Player of the Game interview with Joe Vogatsky and postgame interview with coach Mike Covington. Game highlights on the mag’s Twitter page, including a recap of the North’s four-run first inning.
Photo of Joe Vogatsky by Joey Kamide