Fluvanna County’s been lurking just behind Western Albemarle and Monticello who are both at the top of the standings. Were it not for the rain last week, there’d likely be a clear front runner for the Jefferson District regular season title between those three. Instead, three key games in five days will decide the outcome and on Monday the first of those games finally took place. In contest where the Mustangs took a strong early lead and saw the Flucos fight back to make things interesting late, Monticello was able to muster up just enough to keep the visitors at bay for a 7-5 win and improve its chances of earning a Region II bid.
“The last few games we’ve played we’ve been able to battle and be tough with two strikes, two outs” said Mustangs coach Corey Hunt. “Two outs, two strikes, how you respond is what separates playing mediocre to playing with success. So we pride ourselves on that and it works out sometimes.”
While it was Fluvanna County drawing first blood with a RBI double from Davin Biggs in the top of the second, Monticello answered with five unanswered runs over the next two and half innings. John Page’s solo homerun put the Mustangs on the board in the bottom of the second. In the very next inning, after a walk to Will Decker and singles from Max Mann and Alex McNair, Page came through with a 2-run single.
“We had to battle all night with their pitcher (Bo Reed) who was throwing well and it was just a good overall game,” Page said. “He threw one ball high (in the second) and I was just able to hit it pretty hard.”
An RBI double from Decker in the top of the fourth gave Monticello a 5-1 lead to work with. But it wasn’t long until the Flucos offense came back to life. Fluvanna made it a 2-run game in the top of the fifth after Max Turner and Austin Foster drew back-to-back walks and Bo Reed and Jalen Harrison provided back-to-back RBI singles.
Monticello picked up some welcome insurance in the bottom of the fifth, getting a pair of runs with two outs on a triple from Nate Fox, Frank Sexton reaching base on an error and an RBI dingle from Decker.
“You could tell we hadn’t played in a while the way we struggled a bit catching the ball,” said Fluvanna coach Mike Sheridan. “But hat’s off to Monticello they went out there and made plays. We couldn’t get the two out hit and they could. That’s the difference in a close ball game but I was proud of my sophomore and the way he pitched.”
Trailing by four runs again, the Flucos again clawed back to within striking distance in the sixth. A single from Javon Burton and Dylon Garrett being struck by a pitch set up a 2-run rally to cut it to 7-5 with Foster and Harrison providing RBI singles.
“We got a couple, but every time we did that it seemed like we gave one or two up and its awfully hard to catch up doing that,” Sheridan said. “I thought it was a good high school ball game though.”
But with two outs in the sixth, Monticello went to its ace Josh Malm. After giving up the single to Harrison, Malm ended the sixth with a strikeout with the bases loaded. In the seventh, he retired the side in order picking up two more strikeouts along the way to earn the save and preserve the win for starter Evan Despian.
Reed when the distance for Fluvanna on the mound and only gave up three earned runs. The complete game effort should prove to be critical for the Flucos as they head to Western Albemarle today at 6 p.m. with their number one starter in Turner coming off plenty of rest. In the first meeting between the two, the Warriors edged the Flucos 6-4 in 10 innings.
Monticello hosts Lousia County today at 6 p.m. before resuming its game with Western Albemarle suspened from Friday were the Mustangs lead 3-1 after two innings in the books. A win over the Lions and the Warriors would secure the JD title outright.
“We know have to stick with it and keep going,” Page said. “It’s hard going through the delay but we came out to play today. We just have to keep doing that.”