CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Charlottesville Tom Sox (19-10) faced the Culpeper Cavaliers (16-16) tonight for the fourth and final time of the regular season and fell in an 8-7 loss. The game was close most of the way, with Culpeper holding onto a one-run lead before both teams traded five-run innings in the ninth.
The game started out with Zach Root (East Carolina) on the mound for the ‘Sox. He began by retiring two Cavaliers at the plate. Culpeper answered with a single to get one man on base, but this was quickly combatted by Charlottesville’s defense with a flyout to left field to close the half.
The ‘Sox broke their pattern of scoring in later innings and wasted no time taking the lead in the first inning. Kyle Edwards (Old Dominion) led off and walked, where he then reached third on an error. Brice Martinez (Wofford) successfully brought Edwards across the plate on a groundout to put the first run of the game up on the board.
Culpeper struck for the first time in the top of the third, as David Coppedge hit a double to score a pair of Cavaliers and give them a 2-1 lead. The ‘Sox immediately responded in the bottom half as Garrett Spikes (Georgia) hit the ball deep into right field, where it bounced off the fence for a double. Edwards then singled, which allowed Spikes to advance to third, then Martinez tied the game on a single that brought Spikes home.
Root worked a scoreless fourth before his day was complete, allowing two runs in four innings with a career-high seven strikeouts.
Davian Garcia (Pasco-Hernando CC) came out of the bullpen to relieve Root in the fifth inning. He immediately faced trouble, allowing two free passes and a single. With the bases loaded, Reese Beheler hit a sacrifice fly to right fielder Nathan Fink (Florida Southwestern) to give the Cavaliers a one-run advantage once again.
Over the next three innings, the teams traded scoreless frames. Garcia allowed only two hits in the sixth through eighth innings, totaling three on the day along with five strikeouts. He did not yield a walk after the initial free pass in the fifth.
For Culpeper, Jay Aghanya worked his most effective outing of the season, allowing one hit and two walks over three innings, striking out three. However, the ninth inning proved to be a departure from the first eight.
Luke Calveric (William & Mary) entered the game for the ‘Sox in the top of the ninth inning and initially looked good before things went sideways. After striking out the leadoff batter Ryan Peterson, the next batter reached on an error by Martinez before Calveric’s command melted. He walked five-straight hitters, allowing an eventual total of five runs (three earned) without a hit.
After the fifth walk allowed, Coleman pulled Garrett Spikes in from left and brought him to the mound, where he made his fifth pitching appearance in a Tom Sox uniform. The first batter he faced, Jackson Rusiecki, reached on a fielder’s choice which brought in one run. A second scored on the play on the second error of the inning from Martinez, who overthrew first baseman Chris Arroyo (Florida). He was then able to get former ‘Sox hitter Charles Crawford to strike out to end the nightmare inning.
Culpeper entered the bottom of the frame needing just three outs to lock up a six-run victory, however; it was not that easy. Aghanya came out looking to finish the game but he could not cruise like his previous three innings – loading the bases with a walk to Spikes, a single to Edwards, and a hit-by-pitch to 3-hole hitter Derek Williams (Florida Southwestern). The scene was dire after Arroyo struck out to put two away in the inning, but the rally was just starting.
Fink stepped up to the plate and hit the ball deep into center field and over the fence to secure a first-pitch grand slam, bringing Charlottesville’s deficit back to only two. Connor Hincks (Notre Dame) followed this by hitting a full-count double into left field, and he was soon brought home after David Wiley (Wofford) hit an RBI single into left – putting the game right back where it once was at a one-run deficit. While the dangerous Kalvin Alexander (Georgia Southwestern) stepped up as the winning run, new pitcher Austin Tommasini was able to retire him on just his second pitch and secure Culpeper’s first ever win against Charlottesville.
The ‘Sox will be back in action Thursday, facing the Braves in Staunton. First pitch will be at 7:30 PM at John Moxie Memorial Stadium.
Fink’s four RBI mark a career high.