It wasn’t one big play. The sixth inning between the Fluvanna County and Broadway baseball teams was a long, long train that just would not stop.
The Flucos started the inning down by three and down to their last six outs with things not looking or feeling so bright. They left the sixth with an improbable lead after a 10-run rally with nine of those coming with just one out.
Broadway might have had the Flucos on the ropes in the first five innings, but the defending Region 3C champions had a barrage of jabs and hooks left to the throw late, fighting back to win 11-4 in the semifinals and earn a bid for the Class 3A tournament next week.
“We feed off each other and sometimes that’s a good thing for us and sometimes its a bad thing,” said Fluvanna coach Joel Gray. “The guys understood that there was no tomorrow after today without a win. They rose to the occasion and we just got this big lift from Andrew Ward with his homerun and from there it was just contagious.”
Broadway fired the first shots of the contest. The Gobblers plated three in the top of the second after Jacob Petersheim and Ryan Anderson both singled with two outs. Then Matthew Phillips hit a 2-run single with an error and in the following at bat, Bryce Suters came through with a 2-run single to make it 3-0.
Broadway padded its lead in the top of the fourth when an RBI single to left from Justin Lohr scored John Turner from third after he reached on a single that was misplayed and rolled to the fence in centerfield.
“We did everything we could early on to help ourselves and it was working there for a while,” said Broadway coach Tim Turner. “The game plan was working and everything looked like it was falling into the place.”
Down 4-0, Fluvanna managed to load the bases with no outs after back-to-back doubles from Jacob Critzer and Kevin Ward and a walk. But a 6-4-3 RBI double play then followed and with a pop fly to deep center, Broadway starter Jacob Petersheim got out of the jam relatively unscathed as he went into the fifth inning with a 4-1 advantage.
“I thought that could have been a real turning point,’” Turner said. “He managed to get out of that without a lot of damage, that was big. At that point you turn around and say ‘Good things are happening for us tonight.’ But eventually it went the other way.”
In the sixth, the Flucos went to Andrew Ward in relief where he proceeded to strike out the side to make it 24 straight K’s for him dating back to last Thursday. He also led off the bottom of the sixth and hit a solo shot to right field to make it 4-2.
“We just got in the huddle before the inning and talked about getting our minds straight, not worrying about the previous five innings,” Ward said. “I saw a fastball inside and was just able to turn on it. I got my timing right so when I hit I knew I hit hard.”
After his pitch count hit over 90, Petersheim gave way to Wyatt Emswiler with one out in the sixth but he was chased after back-to-back walks which brought in Jon Turner. An RBI single from Mason Gross cut the lead to one. Another single from John Rittenhouse loaded the bases. That set the table for Kyle Algieri who tied the game on a single up the middle.
“Everybody just kept passing the bats down and I was just looking for something to do something with and tie this game up,” Algieri said. “We felt relieved, we felt ready to hit, ready to go win.”
The Flucos weren’t down though as Algeri was able to beat out a throw to second on what turned out to be a single from A.J. Brown to give his team its first lead. Then Ryan Groome broke the game open with a 2-run single. That forced the Gobblers into their third pitching change of the inning.
“We hit one of those bumps in the road that you’ll hit during the regular season and just hate to have happen to you in a region semifinal,” Turner said. “We just had one of those bad innings.”
Andrew Ward then came up and cranked an RBI double, this time going over the top in left. Kevin Ward added an RBI groundout. Finally, Jacob Critzer capped the 10-run rally with a 2-out 2-run single.
“I think you have to give the credit to Fluvanna,” Turner said. “They came out and just hit the ball hard when they needed to. It was the wrong time for us and the right time for them and they’ve just got a good team.”
With the 11-4 lead in hand, Andrew Ward shut down the side in order and picked. From the seventh inning on Thursday May 16 against Louisa through last week’s Region 3C and then into his first inning of relief, Ward managed to extend his strikeout streak to 28 straight batters. Only a walk in the sixth broke up the streak, and he settled back in to strike out four the final six batters he faced.
For the Flucos, Kevin Ward was 2-for-3 while Andrew Ward was 2-for-4. Eight different players had a hit for Fluvanna.
For the Gobblers, Stuhlmiller was 2-for-3 and was the only player on the roster with multiple hits. Bryce Suters, Ryan Anderson, Turner, Lohr and Petersheim each went 1-for-3.
Fluvanna (19-3) will travel to Liberty-Bedford to play Brookville on Thursday in the Region 3C championship while Broadway (20-4) ends its season having won 20 games along the way.
“I like the direction our program is headed, it feels like we turned the corner this year,” Turner said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our guys and their effort.”