Montpelier was perfect — literally — through the first three innings of play Friday night. Then the floodgates opened.
After the Locomotives took an early lead over Antwerp, they allowed five runs in the fourth inning and six in the fifth in a five-inning, 11-1 loss in the district final at Sumpter Field.
“You’re going to have games like that,” Montpelier coach Toby Hutchison said. “I’d say this wasn’t one of our better games. We decided to have one of those games, and it happened to be in the district finals. But that’s because we played a good team.”
Montpelier pitcher Dakota Benner was perfect on the mound through the first three innings and was pitching with a lead, courtesy of two Antwerp errors in the first inning that allowed Collin Crisenbery to score.
In the fourth inning, though, everything began to come apart.
Four Archers hits scored five runs, as they took a commanding 5-1 lead headed to the fifth. But the issue wasn’t just the runs they scored, it was how.
After two RBI singles from Antwerp, a dropped third strike scored the third run of the inning. Montpelier catcher Bryer Bentley couldn’t find the ball which rolled away, as another run scored for Antwerp to extend the lead to 4-1.
Then after Luke Krouse singled to left after a double play, he advanced to third on a single. The next at-bat, on a throw back from the catcher, resulted got by Benner as the fifth run of the inning scored.
“Dealing with adversity, this team knows how to deal with it,” Antwerp coach Zac Feasby said. “We don’t let it get to us and continue to fight. Even after that first inning, looking into my players eyes, I could tell they were focused.”
The next inning turned out to be worse for the Locos, as the inning started with a double and a single back-to-back. On the single, a throw back to Benner from the cutoff man got away and the Locos fell behind even further.
“It was just whatever could go wrong today did,” Hutchison said. “Tanner (Sanders) is throwing the ball back to the pitcher, I didn’t even see what happened. You don’t imagine something like that happening. That’s kind of the way the day went. I’m not taking anything away from Antwerp, they’re a good team and I knew going into it, it was going to be like that. Today, the better team won.”
Bentley relieved Benner as the two swapped places on the field from pitcher to catcher and vice versa.
But it didn’t go any smoother, as Bentley walked five straight batters and hit the sixth batter to end the game in the fifth inning.The Archers scored their final four runs without putting a ball in play.
“Remained focused, head in the game at all times,” Zac Feasby said of his team. “Even the start of the game, our third baseman Austin Lichty has an error, but he comes right back and makes a diving play later.”
The game got away quickly from the Locos, who only had one turn at the plate to cut into the deficit.
“We hit the ball pretty well, we hit early in the game,” Hutchison said. “I was thinking, ‘We’ve always been that team that’ll come back. We got down 4-1, I wasn’t too worried about it. They’re kind of the cardiac kids, they’ve done it all season.”
While it wasn’t the end Montpelier wanted, the program still had its high-points this year. Most notably, the team tied a school record in wins with 18. Still, it doesn’t make it any easier for Hutchison to say goodbye to a special group of seniors.
“I can’t say enough about my seniors and their leadership and what they’ve brought to the program,” Hutchison said. “Losing those five seniors next year is a heartbreaker. I have a hard time holding back tears talking to them. I’ve loved them from day one. They’ve all started with me their sophomore years, I’m gonna miss them. They were a tremendous asset to the program. They brought baseball back to Montpelier.”
Antwerp will play in the region semifinal next Thursday against Colonel Crawford at Patrick Henry High School. First pitch is at 2 p.m.