June 15 - Tucker Sullivan hit a walk-off single as No. 3 Stafford rallied for a 4-3 win over Mills Godwin in yesterday’s Class 5 state championship game at the University of Richmond.
Sullivan’s two-out single scored Kaz Jordan and came an inning after Joe Tolson drove in a game-tying run in the bottom of the sixth. It handed the Indians (24-3) the first state championship in program history and capped an emotional 24 hours. In Thursday’s semifinals, Stafford scored twice in the bottom of the seventh and won, 11-10, in walk-off fashion on a bases-loaded error by Hickory pitcher Jaren Snellinger.
“Great ending to a great season,” Stafford coach Tommy Harrison said. “A bunch of grinders who trusted the process.”
Sullivan, Elijah Lambros and Tristan McAilister paced the Indians with three hits in the championship game.
Freshman reliever Gunther Braendel earned the win, recovering after surrendering a go-ahead two-run homer to the Eagles’ Noah Cornwell in the top of the sixth to retire the next three batters. He then worked out of a bases-loaded jam unscathed in the top of the seventh. Robbie Baker earned a no-decision after permitting two runs in five innings, striking out four while walking five.
Yesterday morning in Salem, No. 5 Riverside also had its Class 4 state final come down to the final play in a 9-8 loss to Lafayette at Kiwanis Field.
The Rams (18-8) took an 8-7 lead in the top of the seventh when Ryan Murray hit a game-tying triple and Sajon Belser drove him in with a two-out go-ahead single.
Lafayette (19-7), however, rallied when Jaren Smith - who had thrown three scoreless frames in relief of Wyatt Shenkman - hit Ozzie Torres to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Smith retired the next two batters, but after issuing a walk to Mike Labella, the two runners moved into scoring position when Torres stole third and Labella moved to second on a defensive indifference.
Smith then worked a two-strike count on Thomas McLaughlin, who hit a ground ball to shortstop Carson Swank. The Yale University recruit, one of the best defensive shortstops in the area, fielded the ball cleanly on the run but had his throw sail high to allow the tying and winning runs to score.
The loss snapped Riverside’s area-high 15-game winning streak and was the fourth-year program’s second loss in a state final in three years. The Rams fell to Turner Ashby in the Class 3 final in 2017.
Photo of Stafford’s Tucker Sullivan by Michael Greene