A year ago, Andrew Ward had to watch from the sidelines as Fluvanna County’s baseball team made an early exit from the playoffs. The sophomore who has slowly but surely worked himself back into pitching shape after Tommy John surgery got the start on Monday in the Region 3C quarterfinals and picked up the win while also driving in a pair of runs in a 9-0 win over Rockbridge.
Now the Flucos need just one more win to make it to the Class 3A state tournament.
“There’s a lot of positives out this one,” said Fluvanna coach Joel Gray. “Andrew is on a program where we’re trying to keep him to 40-some pitches. That was great to see him pitch so well and then I can’t say enough about Toby Sherman coming in and pitching afterwards, another sophomore that’s just steady as came be.”
For Gray, getting the first region playoff win in seven years was a big sigh of relief considering that the Flucos hadn’t played a game in nearly two weeks. Of course that paired with the fact that this team is still loaded with underclassmen set an interesting tone coming into Monday’s contest.
“After a 13 day layoff, I was real curious how we’d react,” Grey said. “Last week I was a mess, I’m watching all these other teams getting games in and we just couldn’t catch a break with the weather. I was thinking ‘Man, we might be hurting’ because with teenage boys, you never know what how they’ll react. I’ll tell you what though, I’m proud of these guys, they worked hard and came out early and really played well.”
A leadoff home run from Cameron Shields in the first set the tone for Fluvanna. The score stayed at 1-0 until the third when Ward followed up an RBI single from Jacob Critzer with came with a 2-run single to make it 4-0.
“Cameron broke up the hitting slump we had going so I’m pretty proud for him,” Ward said. “When I got up there (in the third) I was thinking we had to score these runs. If we had those two we had the lead we needed. Fought through the at bat and it worked out.”
With Ward at his recommended pitch count after three innings, the Flucos went to Sherman in relief and he went through four innings of shutout baseball to make things easy.
Fluvanna put the game out of reach in the fifth inning by loading the bases with a hit batsmen (Shields), three straight walks, a sacrifice fly from Sean Holyfield, and RBI single from Dashon Carter, a Kevin Ward steal of home and RBI groundout from Kyle Algeri to make it 9-0.
Andrew Ward finished with three innings pitched, two hits given up and just one walk to four strikeouts.
“That felt pretty good,” Ward said. “I came into this trying to treat this like any regular season game and it worked out.”
He also was 3-for-3 at the dish with two RBI and a run scored. Kevin Ward was 2-for-3. The Flucos had eight eight hits but had seven different batters each draw a walk.
Fluvanna will host Rustburg on Tuesday with a Class 3A state tourney bid on the line in the Region 3C semifinals.