Bottom third of Stonewall’s lineup provides spark in historic win

Stonewall Jackson's Logan Ritchie, right, and Brett Jones celebrate after Ritchie scored on Nick Dotson's two-run double in the second inning of the VHSL Group 1A baseball state tournament semifinal game against Eastside on Friday at Calfee Park in Pulaski. Brad Fauber/Daily

PULASKI – Stonewall Jackson High School’s baseball team did damage from the top to the bottom of its lineup in Friday’s 11-3 win over Eastside in the Virginia High School League Group 1A state tournament semifinals at Calfee Park. But it was the bottom third of the Generals’ order that provided the spark.

Stonewall’s seven through nine hitters – senior left fielder Wyatt Estep, junior catcher David Moomaw and sophomore right fielder Logan Ritchie – combined for five of Stonewall’s 13 hits in the victory, reached base a total of eight times in 12 plate appearances and scored five of the Generals’ first six runs.

“That is a recipe of a championship team,” said Generals head coach Mike Lenox, who will lead his team into its first state championship game appearance on Saturday morning against Auburn. “When the bottom of your order can pick you up sometimes and get things going, that’s when you know you’re playing well.”

That trio set the tone for what would become a victory that saw all nine Stonewall starters record at least one hit.

After the Generals stranded a runner at third in the top of the first inning, it seemed they would squander Duncan Schroeder’s leadoff single in the second before No. 9 hitter Logan Ritchie delivered a clutch two-out RBI double on a line drive over the head of Eastside center fielder Tyler Elam, who initially took a step forward and couldn’t make up ground as the ball fell to the turf.

“We just knew we needed to get something started,” Ritchie said, “and when we did everyone just started rolling. We just kept collecting hits.”

Ritchie’s double plated the game’s first run and preceded Nick Dotson’s own two-run double one pitch later that gave the Generals a 3-0 lead.

Dotson said the bottom third’s ability to get on base for the top of the Generals’ lineup “jumpstarted” Stonewall’s offense.

“When the bottom of the order started hitting them, I mean the top was just following,” Dotson said. “Once they were there, we just do our jobs, had good at-bats.”

Eastside appeared to gain some momentum in the third when the Spartans struck for three runs to tie the game, but again the bottom of the Generals’ order provided a boost in their next at-bat.

Estep chopped a 2-2 pitch from Eastside starter Austin Smallwood for an infield single to lead off the fourth and Moomaw – who also had a double in the sixth and joined Estep as one of four Generals with two hits in the win – snuck a grounder through the left side of the infield on the first pitch he saw to put two on for Stonewall with no outs.

Ritchie then dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt down the first-base line, and the well-placed ball resulted in a Spartan error that allowed Estep to scamper home for the go-ahead run. Matt Showman, who entered the game as a courtesy runner for Moomaw, and Ritchie both scored later in what became a decisive six-run fourth inning.

“Lenox told us no matter what, come out and have fun,” Estep said. “This is a once in a lifetime thing for some of us, so we came out, had fun, did what he said and that’s what happened.”