Baseball NEWS

Patriots complete weekend sweep with another walk-off win

April 24, 2016

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Consider it a walk-off weekend for the Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) baseball team. Literally.

The No. 10 ranked NJCAA, Division II Patriots swept a three-game Region X series Sunday against Brunswick Community College (N.C.), with each game decided in walk-off fashion. The 5-4 victory was the 12th straight conference win for PHCC and the fourth consecutive weekend sweep.

Coming off a pair of walk-off wins the day before, the Patriots capped the series 24 hours later with another bases loaded walk in the ninth inning. A Cody Powers (Mechanicsville, Va.) free pass on four pitches brought home Rashad Stewart (Dinwiddie, Va.) with the winning run.

It was the third straight walk of the inning. The Patriots used five in a row in the ninth inning Saturday to erase a three-run deficit. In the end, PHCC coach Frank Jagoda said it simply came down to which team could make a play and execute when the game was on the line.

“The theme of the weekend was we competed to the end in all three games,” Jagoda said. “These were team wins and there were guys who probably didn’t have the best overall weekend but everyone picked each other up. Each guy had their time to either give in or put up a fight and everyone put up a fight.

“Anytime you win tight ballgames it gives your team a boost of confidence. This is a confident group and they’re starting to show that a little bit,” Jagoda added. “Of course this was important but we can’t start to look ahead. We have to stay true to our approach offensively, defensively and on the mound.”

The Patriot bullpen tossed four scoreless innings, allowing the offense to do what it has done all season long: win games late. Parker Brann (Leasburg, N.C.) Kemper Terry (Collinsville, Va.) and Miguel Lopez (Coral Springs, Fla.) combined to keep the Dolphins off the board after they took a 4-3 lead in the fifth inning.

A two-out single gave Brunswick its fourth lead of the series. It would hold the lead through the sixth — its longest span with the lead in the series — until sophomore Aaron Nanney (Gastonia, N.C.) delivered another big hit in the seventh. Nanney hit his second homer of the series taking a 3-1 pitch over the fence in right with two outs. He hit a two-out, walk-off homer in same inning of the second game Saturday.

“When we swung the bat later on in the game, we swung with some intent, instead of swinging at the pitcher’s pitch early on. We swung at our pitches and if we didn’t get our pitches we took,” Jagoda said. “Aaron Nanney was a good example of that, getting into a hitter’s count by taking some close pitches that could’ve gone either way. He put a good swing on a baseball and took advantage of a good hitter’s count.”

The solo blast swung the momentum over the final three innings, as did some flashy PHCC defense.

Terry was brought on with one out in the eighth and runners on first and third. After working three-plus innings in Game 1 the day before, he was able to induce a tailor made 6-4-3 double play to end the threat. Sophomore third baseman Jose Castro (Richmond, Va.) then robbed a sure double down the line with a diving stop to his right and a perfect throw across the diamond for the second out of ninth. Lopez would give up a single and a walk before getting a ground ball back to him to end the inning.

With four errors and three unearned runs over the first three innings, Jagoda said he was pleased to see his defense step up in clutch situations late. Castro’s error in the third helped tie the game at 3 after three.

“Later on in the game guys that struggled with some defensive miscues early made some really big plays late. It was a good job on their end of putting the error behind them and making a big play when they needed to.”

Castro coincidentally factored in the Patriots’ three first-inning runs. His two-out base hit scored Brandon Nania (Murrysville, Pa.) and Jonah McReynolds (Martinsville, Va.), while a wild throw plated Powers, who loaded the bases with a walk — the first of six drawn by PHCC hitters on the day.

Nania walked twice and scored a run. Sophomore Rashad Stewart joined Castro as the only PHCC hitters with multi-hit games, Stewart starting the ninth-inning rally with a one-out single to left.

Sophomore starter Anthony Zona (Mechanicsville, Va.) allowed five hits and one earned run of the four over five innings, striking out three and walking three. He did a good job of locating down in the zone, inducing 10 ground ball outs.

The Patriots improved to 37-14 and 12-3 in the conference following the series win. They will play next weekend at New River Community College in Dublin, and then conclude the regular season with three-game set at Hooker Field against Southeastern Community College-Whiteville on May 7-8.

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