FRONT ROYAL, Va. – The No. 1-seed Charlottesville Tom Sox (29-17) squared off against the No. 8-seed Front Royal Cardinals (22-24) in game two of the VBL playoffs first round, needing a win to stay alive. The ’Sox used a perfect recipe of stellar pitching and extra base hits to force a game three, coming out on top 11-1.
Game two of the series was originally scheduled for Friday night (July 28) at 7 p.m., but significant rain and lightning in Front Royal caused a lengthy delay. After two hours and twenty-four minutes of waiting around, the two teams finally took the field, and the ‘Sox looked good early on.
Mike Eggert (Wofford) got the start for Charlottesville, and only allowed one baserunner in his lone inning of work.
In the top of the second, the Tom Sox offense began to click as more rain started to fall. Aidan Teel (Virginia) worked a one-out walk, which Jacob Ference (Virginia) followed up with a double. With runners on second and third, Connor Hincks (Notre Dame) hit a sacrifice fly to put the ‘Sox up 1-0.
Following Hincks’ at-bat, the weather worsened. Light rain turned into a torrential downpour, and with a 1-2 count on Brady Gumpf (Notre Dame), the umpires pulled the teams off the field. The game would eventually be halted, setting up a resumption of the contest on Saturday.
After another long drive to Bing Crosby Stadium, the ‘Sox wasted no time getting on the board. In the continuation of his at bat from 22 hours prior, Gumpf laced an RBI double into right, which made the score 2-0 and set the tone for the rest of the game.
Charlottesville’s ace, Mark Perkins (Rice), replaced Eggert on the mound, and looked like his usual self. Perkins retired the first seven batters he faced, before giving up a walk in the fourth.
With the groove he was in, Perkins didn’t need much run support, but he got plenty of it. With two outs in the top of the third, back-to-back doubles from Teel and Ference brought home two runs, giving the Tom Sox a four-run advantage.
The ‘Sox didn’t score in the fourth, but one swing of the bat changed the game in the fifth. With two runners on and a full count on Teel, he turned on the 3-2 pitch, crushing it over the right center field wall for his third homer of the season. Teel’s blast blew the game wide open, extending the lead to seven.
Said Teel: “I was just seeing the ball well and felt good at the plate. Our team did a great job providing runs and support.”
Perkins stayed in the game through the end of the fifth and finished with yet another dominant performance. Perkins went four scoreless innings without giving up a hit, only allowed two baserunners, and struck out four. His season ERA now sits at 0.51 through 35 innings pitched, and his scoreless innings streak is up to 27.1 innings.
Charlottesville essentially had the game secured heading into the later innings but didn’t stop hitting the cover off the ball.
Teel added another run to the board by sneaking a fly ball inside the foul pole for his second homer of the game, and the trio of Brice Martinez (Wofford), Hincks, and Gumpf each had an RBI single, bringing the lead to 11-0 in the ninth.
Everyone in the Charlottesville lineup except for Kyle Edwards (Old Dominion) collected a base hit, but Edwards did reach base safely with a leadoff walk in the first. The ‘Sox finished with 17 hits as a team, eight of which went for extra bases, and five of the nine starters had multiple hits. Both Teel and Ference had three extra base hits, while Arroyo and Gumpf each had one.
“Super proud of the guys. They did a great job. Jacob Ference did a great job at the plate providing runs. Connor Hincks did a great job… everyone was seeing the ball well and it just comes with the practice we put in everyday,” Teel said.
Hayden Smith (Kentucky) finished off the game for the ‘Sox on the mound after coming in relief of Perkins to begin the sixth. The southpaw went a season-high four innings, and only gave up one earned run on three hits while striking out five to earn the save.
The trio of Eggert, Perkins, and Smith allowed just four hits in game two, a massive difference from the Cardinals’ 24-hit performance in game one.
After its embarrassing performance on Thursday, Charlottesville flipped the script Saturday. With the 11-1 win, the Tom Sox remain alive in the playoffs for one more day and will face the Cardinals once more tomorrow night in a winner-take-all game three of the series. First pitch set for 7 p.m. at CHO Airport Field.
Ference’s three doubles are the most by a player in Tom Sox history.
Teel’s 10 total bases are the second-most by a Tom Sox player in one game, trailing only Adam Cecere’s 11 in 2021 at Covington. His five runs scored are tied for the most by a Tom Sox player.
Charlottesville’s 17 hits are their most this season and most since they recorded 18 hits last season at Staunton (7/20/22). Their 29 total bases are the most since that game, where they recorded 30.
The Tom Sox’s six doubles are tied for the second-most in a single game. They did so twice last season.
Perkins made his fourth appearance in as many games played at Bing Crosby Stadium; he started both of the regular season road games against the Cardinals and the Valley League All-Star Game.