Sterling (May 30, 2013) – Backed by a 3-hit, 9-strikeout performance by sophomore Kaleb Bowman, Woodgrove High School knocked off Dulles District champion Potomac Falls Panthers, 2-0, in a Region II semifinal that decided which school would represent Loudoun County in the regional finals Friday night and next week’s Virginia High School League AA state tournament.
“We’ll worry about tomorrow when we get to tomorrow,” said Woodgrove coach Brad Bauder on his team’s preparation for the Region II championship game Friday at Sherando. “But we’re going to celebrate tonight. We’re going to the state tournament. These kids are excited, they believe, they’re hungry. I’m so happy for them. I’m glad I get to be a part of it.”
Bauder, the Dulles District Coach of the Year, has had to conquer adversity all season long to lead his team on this deep playoff run.
Woodgrove (17-6) clinched its first ever state trip despite an early-season roster shake-up that saw 10 players, many of them starters, either dismissed or quit the team following an undisclosed rules violation. When the dust settled, all four seniors were gone plus four juniors, including two upperclassmen whom were returning all-district selections.
Bauder called on support from the JV ranks to replenish the roster and the Woodgrove squad remaining includes just four juniors to go with 10 sophomores and seven freshman. One side affect of the dramatic lineup change was that it “created a strong team bond”, according to Bowman.
“We had a big situation where we had to make some roster changes at the beginning of the year and we sat down and had a game plan,” Bauder said. “It took a few games for the kids to really buy in, but now they believe. I’ll tell you what it’s hard to beat a team that believes.”
To get to the state tournament, the Wolverines had to get past a talented Potomac Falls baseball team. Bauder’s team utilized a nearly identical strategy in the semifinal as they did when they defeated the Panthers during the regular season: small ball.
Woodgrove’s two runs came in the first inning when junior Hazen Dean dropped the Wolverines third consecutive sacrifice bunt, scoring leadoff man, junior Matt Jeffery. The bunt, which popped up and fell near the back right side of the pitcher’s mound, was thrown away by the Panthers second baseman allowing freshman Colin Reid to score.
“That is our game plan,” Bauder said. “We do a little bit of everything.”
Bauder’s ace, Bowman, did a little bit more than everything on Thursday night, tossing a 3-hitter, allowing only two base runners after the first inning.
“He was probably more dominant than any pitcher in the state of Virginia tonight,” Bauder said. “You can’t ask for much more. That’s a coaches dream out there.”
Bowman did have a scare in the sixth, after giving up a leadoff single to the Panthers Brandon Orbe. After the base hit, sophomore Charlie Curtis hit a deep fly ball that was secured by right fielder junior Will Hoffer. Following a strikeout, Potomac Falls starting pitcher Zach Engelmann roped a line drive to right, that was once again wrangled in by Hoffer as Bowman got out of the jam.
“It means the world. We wanted this so bad,” Bowman said. “We went out there having fun, playing baseball. That’s what we’re doing. We’re going out there wanting it every day.”
Potomac Falls (20-5) played an almost flawless baseball game as their pitching staff allowed only two hits on the night, but fell short on the offensive end. It was the second straight season that the Panthers just missed making States, following to Powhatan last year in extra innings in the regional semifinals.
“Tonight, Woodgrove out-dueled us on the mound,” Panthers coach Joe Terango said. “Bowman threw a heck of a baseball game. Coach Bauder had them well prepared. Hats off to them, they played a great game tonight.”
The Wolverines will get a chance to earn their school’s first regional baseball tournament title on Friday night in Stephens City when they take on the Sherando Warriors, who have back-to-back walk off wins in the Region II tournament.
“Our mindset is to go out and win a banner,” Bauder said. “Obviously we’re going out there to win a baseball game. To be where we are from two months ago when we had to make our changes, we’ve battled with everything possible.”
Woodgrove Jeffery 2-3, R, SB
Reid sac bunt, R
Whitfield sac bunt, ROE
Dean sac bunt, RBI
Hoffer BB, HBP
Orbe 2-3, PO
Smith 2 BB
Bowman W 7 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 9 K
Engelmann L 4 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 2 K
Orbe 3 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 2 K