From the calamitous early inning to the collapse that followed, the sense of déjà vu wasn’t lost on Spotsylvania baseball coach Travis Payne. A year ago, visiting Riverside plated seven runs in the third inning, derailing the Knights’ first-ever regional championship bid before it built much steam.
This time, while the opponent was different, the outcome carried a familiar sting. Brentsville burst open the Region 3B final with six runs in the top of the third on Thursday night. After a line of thunderstorms postponed the final four frames until 4 p.m. Friday, the Tigers of Nokesville weathered the Knights for a 6–3 victory.
“What I saw was body language,” Payne said. “I heard a lot of the guys talk about it when they came in, about how it seemed a lot like the Riverside game last year. It was just a crazy inning.”
How crazy? Following a leadoff single by Brentsville’s Sam Beard, starting pitcher Jonathan Rivard fielded a bunt only to have the ball elude his grasp ala Tom Brady’s “tuck rule.” Four batters later, the Tigers chased Rivard with only one out, and Trevor Croson put out the fire with 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
But Spotsylvania’s title hopes were already smoldering by that point. When play resumed Friday, the Knights struck out eight times (12 total), and couldn’t capitalize in the sixth despite putting runners on second and third with one out.
If anything, Payne had hoped the delay would serve as a hard reset for the Knights.
“We were given a pretty good opportunity,” Payne said. “They had us on the ropes last night, and I give them a lot of credit. A two-hour bus ride, and coming back here the next day is tough. We were given new life, we just didn’t take advantage of it.”
As if following the script of last year’s final by the line, Spotsylvania carved out a 2–0 lead in the bottom of the first. Max Harper and Eugene Snyder each smacked RBI singles to left field. The Knights also got a run back in the bottom of the third when Dante Fairchild raced home on a first and third delayed steal.
Both teams advance to Class 3 quarterfinal play, with Spotsylvania traveling to face Hopewell, a 7-0 winner over York, on Tuesday.
Before then, the Knights have some soul searching to do.
“We need to realize who we’re losing,” Croson said. “We won’t be the same team at all next year. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the crew we have right now is really special.”
As the postgame handshake line broke, and Spotsylvania’s players jogged off to shallow right field, one Knight shouted in passing, “We’ll see you in Salem!”—the site of Friday’s state semifinal and Saturday’s championship game.
Moments later in the team huddle, Payne issued a rebuttal. Or more aptly, a warning: “Not if you play like you did today.”
MASON POSEY, Jake Delisi (4) and Sam Beard. JONATHAN RIVARD, Trevor Croson (3) and Jonathan Olsberg.