By Aaron Perryman/Scrimmageplay.com Contributor
PALMYRA — Although Fluvanna batted through the lineup during the decisive sixth inning against Orange, it was the Flucos’ Tyler Denby who put a stamp on the six-run inning with a monstrous grand slam over the left field fence that put Fluvanna out in front for good 7-3. The Flucos added one more run in the frame and the Hornets tallied one in the seventh as Fluvanna defeated Orange Tuesday night 8-4 at home.
With Fluvanna down 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth, the Flucos’ Josh Barringer got things started with one out when he drew a walk from Orange hurler Derek Justice. With two outs, coach Mike Sheridan sent lefty Sam Turner to pinch hit against the Hornets southpaw. The curious move worked out as Turner ripped a single to center field, advancing Barringer to third.
“We have a pinch hitter step to the plate, a lefty vs. lefty matchup—I’m the exact opposite of MLB baseball—the lefty goes ‘Whack!’ and smokes it right back up the middle,” Sheridan said. “[He] came cold off the bench to face Derek Justice throwing what—85 or 86 mph? As a sophomore he steps up there and rips a 0-1 pitch right up the middle by Justice.”
Fluco pitcher Ryan Foster then stepped to the plate and drew a walk, loading the bases for Zach Miller, who beat out an infield single by a step, recording an RBI in the process and tying the ball game.
“We have to make plays behind [Justice],” said Orange coach Jesse Lohr. “We had a big play there that should’ve gotten us out of the inning in a 3-2 ball game. He was called safe, it was 3-3…I’m not blaming anybody; it was one of those bang-bang plays. If it goes our way, we’re out of the inning. It went their way, so tie ball game. That stung.”
The bases remained loaded, setting the stage for Denby’s heroics.
“I’m pretty sure it was a fastball,” Denby said of his homer. “I was fouling back pitches all night — good pitches to hit. I just told myself to try to hit a line drive and not do too much and it worked out.”
The grand slam put the Flucos in front for the first time since the fourth inning.
“We expect big things from Tyler,” Sheridan said. “That was the first one he really connected on this year but when it came off the bat, his best friend [Foster] was standing on second [base] and Foster said, ‘I went into a trot as soon as it came off the bat.’”
Both pitchers had solid outings, with Justice recording seven strikeouts in 5.2 innings and Foster going the distance and fanning eight. Justice also, however, issued seven walks and gave up the grand slam.
“Derek had a quality start tonight,” Lohr said. “His fastball was a pitch that he didn’t locate as much but when he did locate it—along with his slider and changeup—that’s when the strikeouts piled up. I don’t know if he’s overthrowing, it looks like at times he might be overthrowing.”
Fluvanna took the first lead of the game in the first inning when Hunter Shepherd slapped an RBI single to left field, plating Denby. Rahiem Cooper answered for Orange in the second when he reached first on a throwing error, advancing Dillon Wagner across the plate in the process. Both pitchers settled in during the middle part of the game with Fluvanna recording zero hits from the third through the fifth innings while Orange collected only two during that period. Orange used one error and a triple by Cooper to tie the game at 2-2 in the fourth and took its only lead of the game in the sixth when Austin Roberts reached by throwing error, scoring Justice.
In all, Fluvanna overcame four errors in the victory.
“In baseball you can’t have a memory,” Sheridan said. “And we’ve tended to dwell on things…Early in our stretch where we were playing poorly, we carried our errors with us. Tonight, we got over the errors I thought.”
Both teams play on the road Friday with Orange (7-4, 3-3) facing Western Albemarle while Fluvanna (4-6, 3-3) pays a visit to Charlottesville.