by Eric Kolenich
GLEN ALLEN, Va. -- Even though he faced an 0-2 count, James Holladay wasn’t worried. He took a curveball, a curveball and a change up, and now he had a 3-2 count in his favor.
With the bases loaded, there was no way he’d get an off-speed pitch, he figured. It had to be a fastball.
Holladay guessed correctly and hit a bases-clearing double, securing an 11-6 victory for the Southern Maryland Senators over Zoom Baseball Academy (Philadelphia) on Friday in pool play of the Pathway USBC Upperclass Championships.
The Senators benefited from a seven-run first inning in which five runners crossed the plate before the first out was recorded. They scored their seven runs on just two hits and six walks.
But Zoom battled back, putting three runs on the scoreboard in the first and another on the third. Holladay’s double in the fourth inning ensured there would be no comeback.
“It was kind of a dagger to the heart,” said Holladay, who went 2 for 2 with four RBI and one run scored.
A rising senior, Holladay is attracting attention from Division III schools, said his coach, Scooter Luther. He called Holladay hard-working, noting that he started three games at catcher in the Pathway tournament before stepping in the box as a designated hitter against Zoom.
The Senators mustered only four hits but took advantage of 12 free passes from Zoom pitchers. Inversely, Zoom scored six runs on 11 hits and no walks.
The Senators used the speed of Isaiah Jones, both in the field and on the base paths. He made a diving catch in the third inning, and in the fourth, he took third base when the Zoom catcher tried to pick him off.
He was standing at second and took a large secondary lead when the pitch was thrown. Hoping to catch him sleeping, the catcher threw down to second, but Jones didn’t hesitate to break for third base. He slid into third before a tag could be made.
“I don’t think about it, really,” Jones said. “I just go.”
Most of his speed comes naturally, he said, though he works out with a track coach and focuses his efforts on Plyometric drills to get faster.
In the bottom of the fourth, when Zoom’s Tommy Digneo hit an off-the-wall double to left center, Jones was close to tracking down the ball. But he was a fraction of a second late, the ball careened off the wall, and so did his body. He smacked into the red wall with a loud thud and fell to the turf.
Digneo had a two-run double, and when the play was over, Jones’ teammates signaled to him, asking if he was OK. He put his thumb up above his head to signal back that he wasn’t hurt.
“My face stung a little bit,” Jones said afterward.
No. 9 hitter Kory Loveless hit an RBI double and an RBI single for the Senators, and Austin Luther threw one inning of relief to close the door on Zoom. Luther is getting some of the most recruiting attention on the team, his coach added, mostly from Division III schools.
Zoom’s Ryan Albin went 3 for 3, and Robert Buckley had two hits and two runs.
The game-time temperature was 95 degrees, and umpires rotated in and out to take breaks. But the heat wasn’t a challenge, Scooter Luther said. His players stayed hydrated, they’re in shape, and the roster is big enough – 21 players altogether – to give players a rest when they need it.