By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
HARRISONBURG -- Page County baseball coach Jimmy Burke took a chance and started normal relief pitcher Tanner Dofflemeyer against Stonewall Jackson in Monday's Shenandoah District tournament semifinals at Harrisonburg High School.
Dofflemeyer looked like an ace against the Generals, with a dominant performance to lead the Panthers to an 18-0 win over the Generals. Page County will play Buffalo Gap in Wednesday's final at Harrisonburg High School at 7 p.m.
"Tanner threw really well for us," Burke said. "He's normally our shortstop, so we knew he had a good arm. He's thrown in relief for us, but it's the first time he's thrown that many innings in a row."
Dofflemeyer threw six innings, allowing only one hit with six strikeouts. The Generals (5-17) produced their only offensive threat off Dofflemeyer in the top of the third inning.
Stonewall Jackson's Patrick Kerlin singled and Daniel Buhl reached on an error with no outs. The Panthers then elected to intentionally walk Matt Litten to load the bases. The gamble paid off. Colton Harlow hit into a double play. Harlow hit it back to Dofflemeyer, who threw home to force out Kerlin, then Page County catcher Dakota Hensley threw to first for the double play. Dofflemeyer struck out Jared Getz to end the threat.
"It just seemed like everything was going their way," Stonewall Jackson coach Mike Lenox said. "It's tough playing on Friday [in the district quarterfinals] and then having to turn around and play on Monday. [Page County] just came out swinging the bats."
The Panthers (12-9) scored at least one run in every inning but one. They scored three in the bottom of the first and didn't look back.
Page County's Michael Foltz drew a one-out walk off Stonewall Jackson starter Matt Litten. Ty Comer followed with a single. One out later, Eliott Good reached on an error, scoring Foltz. Channin Seal followed with a two-run single to give Page County a 3-0 lead.
The Panthers had 18 hits in the victory, including at least one from each starter. Comer went 4-for-4 with an RBI and Hensley was 2-for-4 with four RBIs for the Panthers. Dofflemeyer went 3-for-5 with three RBIs at the plate for the Panthers.
The win guarantees a regional berth for the Panthers, who are the defending Group A, Division 1 state champions. Burke said the team lost five starters from last year's team, and he's happy with the way his team has progressed. He said the offense has been the key.
"When we lost games this season, it's because we weren't hitting the ball," Burke said. "We lost six games by one run. We're starting to get hits now, and that's made a big difference for us."
Kerlin and Trey Alger had Stonewall Jackson's only hits in the game. The Generals' season could be over. They need a lot of help to have a chance to make it to the regional tournament. Eighth-seeded Stonewall Jackson upset top-seeded East Rockingham in the district quarterfinals, and Lenox said he was proud of his young team. There were no seniors in the starting lineup against the Panthers.
"Nobody thought we would be [in the district semifinals]," Lenox said. "I'm proud of the effort the kids gave all year. This was a great experience for the younger guys. Most of them had never been here before."