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Two Outta Three Ain't Bad

Griffin Stanley's perfect squeeze bunt was a game winner.
Griffin Stanley's perfect squeeze bunt was a game winner.Photo by Rebecca Evans

The Roanoke Rails and the New River Roadrunners have quickly developed a new and exciting local baseball rivalry. Both teams boast players from Southwestern Virginia locales, and a sprinkle of out of town talent, to their rosters. The Roadrunners, new to the Carolina Virginia Collegiate Summer League this season, were impressive in their debut at Kiwanis field, snatching a 6-5 walk-off win against the Rails. Tonight, it was the Rails turn to flip the scoreboard.

For the Rails, second year player Zack Kelly (Concord U) had the mound for this nine inning affair, facing former Rails pitcher Dylan Raymond. Lincoln Evans (Lynchburg College) got the Rails going early with a bad hop base hit to left field, stole second and ended up scoring on a Roadrunner error. Will Kaufman (Cal U of PA) drove in Nic Ratliff (Bluefield College) with the second run of the game with a single to right field.
Kelly held New River quiet for the next two innings, however, a single by Carlos Diaz an infield error and an infield out knotted the game at two runs apiece.

The game came down to the bottom of the eighth inning where DJ Russ’s (Emory and Henry) one out single gave the Rails a base runner and back to back walks to Zach McNally (Southern Virginia) and Keith Yancey (Bluefield College), loaded the sacks for Eastern Mennonite’s Griffin Stanley (above). Coach Jeremy Sink then reached into his bag of tricks and dialed up a perfect squeeze bunt by Stanley giving the Rails a 4-3 lead heading to the ninth.

The visitors would face Rails closer Steve “Big Cat” Ball in the ninth and become his latest victim. A ground ball, an infield single and two strike outs, sent the Roadrunner’s back to the road with a well- played 3-2 loss.
On Father’s Day afternoon, the Rails would face yet another newly minted CVCL team; The Montreat Mountaineers. Brandon Creesy (Arizona Christian) coming off a one hitter against Catawba, would square off against D-1 hurler T.J. Fussell (Western Carolina).

From the first play of the game (a dropped pop-up) the Rails seemed doomed. In all, the Rails made five errors in the first inning and staked Montreat to four runs on one hit. Sadly, the rest of the game followed course. Fussell was overpowering striking out six in four and one third innings, and pitching around Rails clean-up hitter Will Kaufman. A Lincoln Evans double spoiled Fussel’s no-hitter bid and Zach McNally recorded another base hit off Fussell and scored on a ground ball by Paul Williams (Concord University). Lincoln Evans shot a double to right.

One bright spot came from Alec Brown (/Patrick Henry HS/Southern Virginia) the only high school player on the Rails roster this year, who pitched a perfect sixth inning in relief. The final score was 12-1 in favor of the Mountaineers.

The night cap game belonged to the boys in sky blue, your Roanoke Rails. Michael Mnich (Alderson & Broaddus) the Rails starter in game two had a couple of uneven outings earlier in the season, however, tonight was vintage Mnich, changing speeds and showing near perfect control on the mound.

The first few innings of the game produced no runs for either team, until Mikey Wallman (Randolph Macon) led off the bottom of third with a first pitch solo home run over the left field wall. Griffin Stanley followed with a walk and advanced to third on Chad Frazier’s (Francis Marion) single. Wallman’s college teammate, Christian Sanderson then scored Stanley and moved Frazier into scoring position. Joey Sutphin’s (Hampden-Sydney) sacrifice fly would plate Frazier to post a three run lead for the Rails.

Mnich worked five full innings yielding two hits, no walks and added six strikeouts. The Rails bullpen responded with three shutout innings from Easton Riggs (Ferrum College), Kyle Goddard (Christopher Newport) and Ball to salvage a split with the hard hitting group from Asheville, North Carolina.

The Rails tangle with the scrappy New River Roadrunners again this Wednesday at 6:00 pm at KIwanis Field in Salem.