WOODSTOCK, Va. – The Charlottesville Tom Sox (31-16) remained undefeated in the playoffs, knocking off the Woodstock River Bandits (31-16) 7-1 in game one of the Valley League Championship Series. They are now one win away from securing the Jim Lineweaver Cup for the third time in five seasons.
On the mound for the River Bandits was their ace Christian Gordon, who had only given up four hits in 10⅔ innings in two shutout wins against the Tom Sox entering the night. Despite this, the ‘Sox struck early. In the first inning, a solo home run by Carter Cunningham (East Carolina) put the Tom Sox on the board first. Although he was unable to score, Cole Wagner (Georgia) hit a single to push his on-base record to 37 consecutive games.
In the bottom half of the inning, R.J. Stinson singled, stole a base, and advanced to third. He then scampered home on a passed ball to even the score. The game was controlled by each team’s defense until the fifth inning.
Kyle Edwards (Old Dominion) led off the fifth with a walk. Brody Moss (Auburn) and Christian Martin (Virginia Tech) followed him to load the bases with no outs. Cunningham drove in Edwards with the fourth straight walk of the inning, and a single from Trey Yunger (Wofford) scored Moss and Martin to put the ‘Sox in the driver’s seat, 4-1. For the River Bandits, they had to go to the bullpen earlier than they suspected. Gordon’s day ended after walking his fifth batter of the inning and seventh on the day.
The game stayed stagnant until the ninth where the Tom Sox pulled away. With Cunningham and Wagner on second and third, respectively, Kalvin Alexander (Florida Southwestern) drove them home on a single. Alexander stole second and advanced to third on an errant throw from the catcher to the shortstop. The next pitch passed the catcher, and Alexander scored to put the game out of reach, 7-1.
Drew Bryan (Chicago) was dominant in his tenth appearance and fourth start of the season. After giving up a run in the first, Bryan pitched 4-straight scoreless innings. He allowed two hits and two walks while striking out six to keep the River Bandits in check. Jackson Nove (Kentucky) came in to relieve Bryan, and he kept the strong start going into the later innings. In his three innings of work, he struck out four batters – the only batter to reach base was on an error. Trey Yesavage (East Carolina) finished off the last three batters to close out game one.
For the top batters, Wagner and Yunger were the only two with multiple hits for the game. Wagner was 2-for-5 with two singles, while Yunger was 2-for-3 for the day with another two singles and two RBIs. Cunningham’s home run in the first inning gave the ‘Sox some early momentum, while Alexander’s 2-run single and score in the ninth sealed the deal. The story of the night was the plate discipline, as they walked 11 times and recorded only six hits.
FROM HEAD COACH RAMON GARZA:
On Message to Players Before Playing River Bandits in Championship: “The difference in these kinds of games is being able to take advantage of the little things – getting guys over, getting ahead of counts. When you look up in the ninth, if you’re doing those little things right, you’re going to give yourself a good chance to win.”
On Keeping Team’s Focus for Game 2: “Winning game one doesn’t really do much for you. It just guarantees that you can play a game three if you have to. Getting the job done and putting it away is the big thing. Just preaching to them to take it one step at a time, one inning at a time, one pitch at a time. Keep focusing on those little things, and that will give you a great chance to win.
FROM DREW BRYAN: “It’s all about making the next pitch. I know I got all my teammates behind me, and they’re going to score a bunch of runs, and [I] just had to stay focused to make sure we got that W.”
FROM JACKSON NOVE: “[I] trust everyone behind me to make the plays that need to be made. I put it in the zone, and the defense helped me out.”
UP NEXT: The Tom Sox will host their first and only home game in the 2022 playoffs for game two at Charlottesville High School. First pitch is set for 7 P.M. on Wednesday (August 3). Admission to the game is $5 for an individual and $10 for a carload.
The Tom Sox move to 5-3 all-time in the championship series.
The Tom Sox have a chance to win the championship at home, where they won their first and second titles.
The 11 walks drawn by ‘Sox hitters are tied for the second-most this season.
Brody Moss now sits third in ‘Sox history with 32 walks on the season. He needs two to tie the team record set by Ari Sechopoulos in 2017.
Over his last four appearances, Jackson Nove has a 0.54 ERA (1 run allowed) in 16.2 innings, allowing nine hits, striking out 13 batters, and walking only three.