West Springfield’s baseball team has a few phrases that its members tend to repeat over and over. On Saturday afternoon, June 6 at Westfield High School for the Virginia AAA state semifinals, the Spartans showed why.
One of the West Springfield favorites has to do with taking everything one inning, one out and one pitch at a time. The second involves simply wanting to compete, to do everything possible that could produce a victory.
In scoring four runs to reverse an early two-run deficit, the Spartans showed an ability to compartmentalize those previous proceedings. They later displayed a burning desire to win late in games, as they scored one run in the seventh to make things interesting.
But what eventually occurred was a 6-5 loss that translated into something that no Spartan has spoken of at all this season: the end.
“It’s just a tough one to lose,” said center fielder Bryn Renner, who went 4-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored. “This time of the year, we have to make plays, and we didn’t do that today.”
The loss completed West Springfield’s season at 23-5 and one game short of where many thought the Spartans would end up. Instead, Menchville will face the winner of Saturday evening’s other semifinal between Frank W. Cox and Hanover on Sunday night at Westfield.
<b>MENCHVILLE STRUCK</b> early with a double from Jeffrey Gray and a home run from the next batter, Devorn Lake. Facing a 2-0 deficit in the bottom half of the first inning, Renner crushed a solo homer to left center, crushing a 1-1 fastball.
The next batter was third baseman Charlie Morgan and he turned around a full count fastball and sent it screaming over the 20-foot tall fence in center. All of a sudden, Menchville’s early rally was squashed. West Springfield had tied the score at two.
Renner and Morgan (2-for-4, 2 RBIs) kept at it. In the bottom of the third inning, Renner’s double down the left field line scored second baseman Bubba Self and Morgan’s single scored Renner from second. With a 4-2 lead, the Spartans knocked out Menchville’s starting pitcher, Matt Armstead.
Menchville answered with a run in the fourth and innings, with the second run courtesy of an awkward bunt attempt by Lake that sailed over pitcher Mike Kent’s (6 IP, 6 R, 8 K) head and was scored as a single. Jharel Cotton single would score Gray.
In the sixth inning, Menchville grabbed the lead for good. When Jake Weinreich led off with a single, a passed ball then squirted away from catcher Tucker Tobin to move him to second. After Armstead was walked intentionally, Hunt Lewis’ sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third.
Gray stepped to the plate and roped a single down the right field line, which barely eluded the glove of first baseman Richie McMahon, bringing home the final two runs for Menchville.
“I’m not going to take anything away from them,” said Spartans coach John James, whose team won its first Northern Region title since 1998 this spring. “They played well and they won the game. We played well, and they were better than us today. That’s all there is to it.”
For the final act, West Springfield staged a rally in the seventh. Despite two strikeouts, Self reached on a successful bunt attempt and took second because of a balk. Renner then scored Self with his fourth and final hit of the game.
“That’s been our theme the whole season. We want to compete from the get-go,” Renner said. “I think every at-bat we went up there today, we just showed that today. Even though we lost, I can’t say enough about this team.”