By Jerry Reid
The Babe Ruth-Cal Ripken 11-Year-Old State Tournament was held for the first time at the beautifully groomed two-field Claudius Crozet Park in Crozet July 9 through 12. Eight teams came to town ready for action in the double-elimination format.
The final winner was the powerhouse Glen Allen team from the Richmond suburbs, but the home fans were out in force and rooting hard for the Peachtree League All-Stars to win their first-ever tournament as hosts. With coaches Drew Holzwarth and Ed Quigley, along with manager Matt Winkler, the team put on a good show, almost making it deep into the field.
Winning their opener against Stafford 2-0, and following that with a 3-2 victory over Williamsburg, things were looking good for the home team. But Glen Allen put a damper on the party with a 6-3 win. Five Peachtree pitchers doled out 12 hits, including a two-run double and a three-run homer. The next matchup, and a match it was, pitted Peachtree against Stafford for the second time in the tournament. Stafford prevailed this time.
After giving up just five hits in the first two games, the Peachtree pitching staff was stung for 20 hits in the next two games. But they hung in and almost advanced with a big last-inning push. They also got 19 hits in those games, out-hitting Stafford 10-8 in their final game.
This do-or-die game was the ebb and flow type. Stafford took a big lead and a huge comeback by Peachtree fell just short, 9-8, in the final inning. Peachtree trailed 9-3 in the bottom of the fifth. Leaky defenses and bases-on-balls were plaguing both teams. Crozet’s Andrew Barrese reached first on an error and then stole second. Brendan Quigley stroked a single. Michael Holzwarth reached on another error and Barrese scored. Andrew Shifflet singled, scoring Quigley from third to tighten the game up at 9-5.
The Peachtree squad faced its last chance in the sixth. Isaac Sumpter and James Meenan wasted no time, reaching base with singles. After a wild pitch moved both up, Matt Heilman worked for a walk, loading the bases. Barrese got a free pass also, scoring Sumpter to narrow the score to 9-6. After a strikeout and flyout, Shifflet banged a double that scored Meenan and Heilman. With one out left, the bases loaded and the score now 9-8, Ross Hardy struck out swinging with a full count.
Peachtree suffered its second loss, but they went down swinging, playing with a can-do attitude and they showed good sportsmanship throughout.
Tournament winner Glen Allen is almost a legend, a dynasty in youth baseball, but that doesn’t faze Peachtree manager Matt Winkler.
“We’re a small league; the numbers we pull from can’t match teams like Glen Allen. Their talent pool is just deeper,” Winkler stated. “Glen Allen is a great team, but we can play with anybody. Going forward next year, we feel good about our chances to win this tournament.”
Winkler said the team was excited to be in the limelight with this first-ever hosting of a state event. “Just to be able to play in front of community, playing our hard-nosed baseball . . . . They stayed with it. There are 12 kids on this team, and they all pay attention to everything about this team. There is no “I” in this team.” The ‘dauntless dozen’ showed their grit, determination and brotherhood even in defeat.
Losing is always hard, but “the team’s attitude was, ‘Wow, this is just fun to be playing,’” Winkler said, adding that they drew inspiration from the Virginia Cavaliers’ dogged, blue-collar quest for a national championship. “We talked about that a lot, the Cavaliers’ run to glory.”
Next year looks promising for this gritty bunch of players and their top-notch coaching staff.