By Eric Kolenich
RUTHER GLEN, Va. – When the top of the first inning had ended, nine batters from the Bradley Eagles Academic Prep had stepped into the batter’s box, six of them had been walked to first base, and four had completed their trip around the diamond to score a run.
Buoyed by its opponents' inability to throw strikes in the early innings Wednesday, the Bradley Eagles (Washington D.C.) breezed to a 9-4 victory over FTB Mid Atlantic in pool play of the Pathway USBC Underclass Championships at the Virginia Sports Complex.
All told, FTB’s pitchers walked eight batters and gave up just five hits. Steven Trone, FTB’s third pitcher of the day, fared the best, throwing the final three innings and allowing three unearned runs and striking out four batters.
Maybe the Eagles’ best moment of offensive glory came in the fourth with two outs and a runner on first. Andrew Timberg hit a line-drive double over the left fielder’s head, scoring the runner.
The runner, Xavier Grimaldi, had the steal sign, and Timberg knew he only wanted to swing if he was sure he could hit it. He didn’t want to foul it off and spoil Grimaldi's effort. But he got a fastball middle-in, just where he likes it. So he turned on it and pummeled it to the left-field fence.
In the two innings prior, FTB had put four runs on the board and briefly cut the Eagles’ lead to two. Timber’s double served as the Eagles’ knockout punch, stretching the lead back to four.
“That’s half winning the ball game,” Timberg said, “feeling like you can win.”
Before Timberg stepped up to the plate, his coach made a prescient call to his batter.
“Coach said hit a double, and I hit a double,” Timberg said.
“Keep it going, we’re not finished,” outfielder and pitcher Jonah Wilkes said to his teammates. When one teammate said the Eagles needed to reach 10 runs, Wilkes responded, “Why stop there?” The Eagles put one more run on the board in fifth and settled for nine.
The Eagles spread out the innings among three pitchers: Noah Potholm, Timberg and Wilkes. Potholm, the starter, allowed one run in two innings. Timberg gave up three runs (two earned) on four hits, and Wilkes shut the door, allowing only one base runner in 1.1 innings.
“Our pitching and defense kept us right there and minimized their big (third) inning,” Eagles coach Chad Carroll said.
By limiting each pitcher’s pitch count, Carroll hopes to have all his arms available again Thursday, though he said Timberg might get some rest. He threw four different pitchers in their first game of the tournament.
“It’s to keep as many guys as fresh as possible,” he said.
Wilkes, who recorded the final four outs and allowed only one base runner on an error, threw a knuckleball. Because of his slow arm action, Carroll said, Wilkes is capable of eating up innings.
Wilkes also batted cleanup and scored three runs, though they came on three walks. It can be frustrating never getting a pitch to hit, he said.
“But I’d rather walk than strikeout,” he added.
Grimaldi scored two runs and recorded an RBI. Timberg scored twice, and Andrew Wagner added two RBI. Cole Peverall went 2 for 4 with a double.
Patrick Sullivan and Zach Wainio each hit a double for FTB.