Jackson Rogers has been Potomac Falls’ ace all season long and it just so happened that the rotation had him scheduled to play the most important game of the Region II tournament, the semifinals with a Group AA bid on the line.
From the first to the seventh, Rogers was brilliant and his defense was too. The Panthers only allowed William Monroe to plate a runner once, and with a big third inning offensively, Rogers was able to push his team to a 5-1 win to end the Dragons impressive season.
“We’re very excited (to have earned a state bid),” said Potomac Falls coach Joe Terango. “We’ve been there before and we’ve shown very well and we’re not expecting anything different.”
All six runs came in one inning — the third. The Panthers hit pretty well all game, but Monroe’s pitching and defense before and after the third was more than enough to keep them off the scoreboard. The third was different as Potomac Falls put up five runs on a trio of RBI singles, a pair of RBI doubles and an RBI ground out. Matters could have been worse when Sampson Bass hit a two out single to left field but Monroe senior Cody Thacker gunned down Colin Deely Jr. trying to score from second thanks to a tag applied by Dragons catcher Logan Forloines.
Monroe answered in the bottom of the third with its lone run of the game thanks to a single from Jordan Gentry followed up by an RBI triple from Forloines.
“I was proud of the team for fighting,” said Monroe coach Mike Maynard. “It was 5-0 and they got that one run, had a chance to make it 5-2 and 5-3. We just couldn’t get the runners in.”
After giving up five runs in the third, Monroe put the ball in Gentry’s hands in the fourth. Coming off of two days rest after throwing four shutout innings against Brentsville on Tuesday, Gentry was every bit as effective on Thursday as he clamped down on the Panthers offense, striking out five batters in another four innings of work.
“In AAU I got used to throwing back-to-back games,” Gentry said. “But I’ve been coming in fresh this year because Coach Maynard only wanted me throwing one day a week. My arm’s strong, but I think holding out as much as I did during the year helped me right now. I feel fine throwing back-to-back and my arm isn’t sore.”
Unfortunately for Monroe, as good as Gentry was in relief, Rogers was all game for Potomac Falls.
“He was unbelievable,” said Maynard of Rogers. “We had heard a lot about him, that he was their ace. They saved him for us and he pitched unbelievable.”
The junior was able to locate his fastball, curveball and changeup for strikes and only gave up four hits on the day. Conversely, he struck out 10 batters.
“I came in focused, knew this was a huge game, the biggest of the season,” Rogers said. “I tried to keep the ball off the plate (because) the umpire was giving a few inches off the plate so I tried to use that to my advantage. I had some trouble locating. My fastball wound up being my go-to pitch, which is unusual. “
For Potomac Falls, Ryan Mahoney was 3 for 4 with a run scored. Benjamin Sweger and Ryan Miller each had RBI doubles.
Thacker is the lone senior starter that Monroe graduates. The Dragons’ entire pitching staff including Gentry, Ryan Morris, Lamar Nelson and Forloines will all be back for their senior seasons. The 2011 season marked the first time that the Dragons won a Jefferson District regular season or tournament title, and they did not drop a single JD contest. Potomac Falls and Madison County were the only teams able to beat Monroe.
“We had a great year but it has to end some way,” Maynard said. “What a great year and what a great group of kids. We’ve got a lot of them coming back, we only graduate three seniors total and we played two freshmen all year and one sophomore. We’ve got the whole core coming back. I do feel sorry for the seniors, for Cody, Dustin Foster and Derek Peacher.”
Inbetween those two losses were 19 straight victories.
“It’s the best William Monroe season I’ve ever been a part of since I’ve been at the school, football, basketball or baseball,” Gentry said. “These are the best teammates you could ask for. We fought to the end. We’re looking to capitalize next year.”
Next season the Dragons will join their rivals from Madison in the Bull Run District as they drop down from Group AA Division 3 classification to Group A Division 2.