ORANGE — It was their’s and then suddenly it wasn’t. For 6.2 innings, the game belonged to Orange County. But down by two in the top of the seventh with the bases loaded and two outs, a pop fly from Goochland third baseman Scott Ragland got lost in the lights. The bases were cleared, and after Bulldogs pitcher Ben Verlander worked through a bit of a jam in the bottom half of the inning, Goochland was able to leave Porterfield Park with a 4-3 win.
“It was one of those games where you can’t predict whats going to happen and our guys had a lot of fight and got on base,” said Bulldogs coach Wes Farkas. “We got a fortuitous bounce at the end and we were able to take advantage of that and sometimes that’s the way it works in baseball.”
Orange County got on the board in the bottom of the first when a single from Derek Justice drove in a pair of runs. In the second inning both teams traded runs as Lonnie Johnson gave the Bulldogs their first run on an RBI double with Hornets’ leadoff hitter Trey Maupin answering back with an single to bring in a run.
And from there, it was a battle on the mound with Verlander and Justice working their magic.
Orange put runners in scoring position in fourth and fifth, but Verlander and the Goochland defense were able to head into the dugout unscathed on both occasisions.
“We had some opportunities offensively and we let them go,” said Orange coach Jessie Lohr. “Defensively we beat ourselves. I thought Derek pitched very well in his first outing of the year.”
Until the seventh, the Bulldogs could not get past Justice or the Orange defense. Justice struck out 10 of the 26 batters he faced, and long towering hits to centerfield, such as Verlander’s blast in sixth, were contained by Porterfield Park’s seemingly never-ending outfield and tracked down for outs.
Goochland was one pitch away from heading home with a 3-1 loss as Justice was able to strike out a pair of batters and get Kevin Carroll – who wound up being the go ahead run – to a full count. But Carroll reached base on balls and Ragland’s pop-up wound up pushing the Bulldogs out in front.
Orange put runners on first and third with two outs in bottom of the seventh, but Verlander ended all Hornet hopes with a strikeout to seal the win.
“Obviously the adrenaline was going crazy,” Verlander said. “And when that happens everything goes up in the zone which is never a good thing. You’ve got to keep it down and I was just able to hit my spots.”
For Lohr, it’s a win that got away, but it should serve as a lesson down the road.
“That game has to be won and that’s a motto that we preach – we’ve got to finish,” Lohr said. “But what I did like was that we came back in that bottom half of the seventh and got ourselves in a situation where one hit ties the ballgame or maybe even wins it.”
Verlander struck out nine batters while giving up six hits to pick up the victory.
Justice rung up 10 batters, surrendered four hits and did not give up an earned run in the loss. He was 2 for 2 at the plate and also drew a pair of walks.
Goochland (5-0, 2-0 Jefferson) travels to Western Albemarle on Friday at 5 p.m.
Orange (2-1, 0-1) heads to Charlottesville on Friday at 7 p.m.