After winning the District 13 championship in a weather delayed seven inning contest with King George Post 89, Albemarle Post 74 earned a break from the road to play in one last home game at Albemarle with Leesburg Post 34 for a state tournament play-in game. Post 74 didn’t mess around with its offense capitalizing for a handful of crooked numbered innings and starter Jacob Haney spinning together seven shutout innings. While Post 34 threatened late, Post 74 held serve and earned a bid to play in the state tournament with an 8-3 win.
Haney was dialed in from the start on the bump as he retired eight of his first ten batters through three innings and then 12 of his last 13. His only real threat was in the second where he gave up his lone hit of the game but a big play from Ethan Murray at shortstop with two outs ended that. Haney finished with seven strikeouts on the night and gave allowed just one hit and one walk.
“First pitch strikes were key, I was really trying to get deep into the ballgame, you know go five or six innings,” Haney said. “Everything worked today, first pitch strikes with the fastball and curveball and then a really good defense behind me. And then Ethan’s plays at short, those always fire me up. It’s just so much fun and it makes you pitch better.”
Conversely, Albemarle had a quartet of 2-run innings. In the third, Murray scored with the bases loaded when Jackson Barrett was hit by a pitch. Then a passed ball allowed Michael Spence to score to make it 2-0. In the fifth a single from Haney and double from Spence set up a 2-run single for Nathan Toney to make it 4-0. Post 74 then went up 6-0 on a 2-run single from Jacob Grabeel in the sixth that plated Spence and Toney.
“The mindset was that there were a lot of curveballs and a lot of them were landing for strikes,” Grabeel said. “So I was looking fastball low and away all the way. We just had to win. We wanted to get after them with the sticks and we had to because Jake was pitching a great ballgame. It all worked out. We were just aggressive.”
Leesburg broke the shutout in the top of the eighth with two singles and four hit batsmen to make it 6-2. But Albemarle responded with an RBI single from Haney and an RBI fielder’s choice from Spence in the bottom of the eighth to make it 8-3. Timmy Stephan shut the door in the ninth by retiring the side to wrap up the game.
Albemarle now heads to Winchester on Tuesday to begin the state tournament with an opponent to be determined. Post 74 has won four of the last five state championships, but did not qualify for it last year. With a vastly revamped roster since the merger between Post 74 and Fluvanna Post 2003, this Albemarle squad looks forward to getting back to business on the state level.
“We knew we had a good squad coming in and now we get to try and accomplish our goal — going to states and going as far as we can,” Grabeel said. “It’s just a matter of us being one, playing the game we know, pitching well, hitting the ball and seeing what happens.”