Understandibly, the top of the order has been Orange County’s bread and butter, but eventhough Trey Maupin and Derek Justice reached base in nine of their combined 10 plate appearances, it was the bottom of the order that hammered in the runs. Tyler Seal and Dillon Wagner brought home seven runs, and with Justice dealing on the mound, the Hornets advanced past William Monroe, 11-5, in the Jefferson District quarterfinals.
“That’s all you can say — we had quality at-bats tonight,” said Orange assistant coach Travis Knight who was filling in for Jessie Lohr.
Hitting in the ninth spot, Seal was 2 for 4 on the day, with an RBI single in the second inning, brought in a run on a sacrifice bunt in the third and had a 2-run single in the sixth.
“When Derek’s pitching you know you’re going to get a quality outing, you’ve just got to back him up,” Seal said. “We’ve struggled a lot this year backing him up.”
They didn’t this time around. Hitting two spots before Seal, Wagner was also 2 for 4, driving home Austin Roberts on a double in second and picking up two more RBIs in the sixth on a hard hit single.
Despite battling a pitch count issue, Justice was more than effective from the rubber. The senior racked up 11 strikeouts in six innings of work and surrendered just one earned run on three hits.
“I was a little nervous,” Justice said. “Usually when it’s the third time you’re playing somebody things don’t always go according to plan. But I felt pretty good out there. The off speed stuff was working well.”
After a shaky start defensively which helped Orange scored seven runs in the first three innings, Danny Morris came on in relief of Jordan Gentry and fanned five of the first 10 batters he faced. Morris, one of Monroe’s three seniors, was also the only Dragon to register more than one hit, finishing the night 2 for 4.
The Dragons put up runs in the third, fifth and sixth innings, but could not keep pace with the Hornets.
“With an all-district pitcher on the mound, you’ve got to keep within striking distrance,” said Monroe coach Mark Arrington. “I think some of the miscues made it a little bit wide.”
Trailing by eight, Dustin Forloines brought in a pair of runs in the top of the sixth with two outs, but the Dragons were unable to rally further.
Despite the season ending loss, Monroe is excited about the direction of the program, as a core of sophomores in Ryan Morris, Logan Forloines, Jordan Gentry and Zach Duprey earned plenty of valuable playing time which should pay dividends soon.
“I think stepping up from the JV level, the speed of the game got to (our guys),” Arrington said. “But by the end of the season they had addressed that issue and ran off some impressive wins — they beat Louisa and Goochland.”
For the Hornets, their reward is a semifinal match against Louisa at Charlottesville High on Wednesday at 5 p.m. Last year, Orange was the top-seeded regular season champs when they were upset by the Lions in the semifinals. The Hornets are hoping to get one step closer to a Region II birth by returning the favor to Louisa this year.
“Obviously Derek’s not going to be available (to pitch) for us,” Knight said. “But at the same time we’ve got some good help in the bullpen and Dillon will be our starter. We’re going to throw everything we’ve got at them and hopefully we’ll be successful.”