WINCHESTER – Two powerhouse Division III baseball teams played a doubleheader on Saturday at Bridgeforth Field in Winchester. At the end of the day, Randolph-Macon College showed why it’s one of the top teams in the country.
The Yellow Jackets used two strong pitching performances to sweep Shenandoah University in a match-up of two of the top teams in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. The Yellow Jackets won the first game, 18-2, and the second game, 8-4.
“We came in here and were really competitive,” Randolph-Macon head coach Ray Hedrick said. “And you need to be on your ‘A’ game to play (Shenandoah head coach) Kevin Anderson (Shenandoah assistant coach) Bruce Cameron and Shenandoah. And I felt like there were a couple blips on the radar, but I think for 16 out of 18 innings are guys were extremely competitive, and it’s big for the program.”
Randolph-Macon (26-4-1, 16-2 ODAC) entered the game ranked No. 4 in the country, while Shenandoah was ranked No. 11.
The Yellow Jackets used their top two starting pitchers, Colin Selby and Nick Roth, and they were both dominant.
In the second game, Roth went six innings. He allowed six hits and struck out four. Outside of the third inning, Roth gave up just two hits.
“He’s like a crafty lefty,” Hedrick said of Roth. “He’s just going to change speeds and be as competitive as all get-out. He’s not a big velocity guy, but he’s a location guy. Our starting pitching has been as good as anyone in the league this year.”
The Yellow Jackets scored three runs in the top of the second. Randolph-Macon’s Rick Spiers drew a walk by Shenandoah starting pitcher Robert Klinchock. With one out, Reece Yeargain doubled into left field to score Spiers for a 1-0 lead.
Yeargain went past second on the play and was tagged out. Grant Huckestein singled, and Michael Nickles drilled a two-run homer over the right-field fence for a 3-0 advantage.
Shenandoah (26-8, 12-5 ODAC) responded with a four-run third inning. Grant Thompson doubled down the left-field line to get the inning started.
Jamie Naill drew a walk by Roth. With one out, Henry Delavergne’s two-run single cut the lead to 3-2.
Tristan Baker followed with a double, and a groundout RBI by Robbie Marcelle tied the game at 3. Keegan Wolford’s RBI single gave the Hornets a 4-3 edge.
The Yellow Jackets came right back with a run in the top of the fourth. A solo home run by Tuzzolo off Winchester starting pitcher Robert Klinchock tied the game, 4-4.
“It was tied 4-4, and we had some opportunities to go ahead, but credit Roth who just comes at you with four pitches,” Anderson said. “He’s a quality college pitcher. They play well behind him, and they can hurt you, and they did today.”
Randolph-Macon took the lead for good in the top of the seventh. Zach Evans singled off Klinchock to start the inning. He was forced out at second on a grounder by Ryan Duphorn. With two outs, Cole Migliorini singled, and Spiers reached on an error to load the bases. Tuzzolo followed with a two-run single to give the Yellow Jackets a 6-4 lead.
Nickles hit his third homer of the day in the top of the eighth to stretch the lead to 7-4. The Yellow Jackets scored another run later in the inning on an error.
“It’s so contagious,” Anderson said of the errors. “They were applying pressure, and we didn’t handle their pressure. And our game plan was to come out and hit and run and run and hit and apply pressure. And then we fell behind and then you got to rely on the big fly and extra bases and today we just didn’t have an answer.
The Yellow Jackets had 17 hits in the first game, including three home runs. Spiers had a grand slam, Nickles had a two-run homer, and Tuzzolo had a solo shot.
Randolph-Macon took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second on Tuzzolo’s homer. The Yellow Jackets added another run in the top of the fifth on an RBI single by Migliorini.
The Hornets tied the game in the bottom of the fifth. Naill drew a walk from Randolph-Macon starting pitcher Colin Selby. Delavergne was hit by a pitch and Baker reached base on an error to load the bases with one out. A wild pitch by Selby scored Naill, and a sacrifice fly RBI by Marcelle tied the game at 2-2.
The Yellow Jackets responded with a 10-run sixth inning to take control of the game. They sent 13 batters to the plate, had five hits, and took advantage of two Shenandoah errors.
Selby went seven innings and struck out nine, allowing only four hits. Hedrick, a former New Market Rebels manager, said the Yellow Jackets were able to make Morse throw a lot of pitches early in the game and eventually wear him down.
“Obviously, Selby and Morse, that was the big match-up in the ODAC,” Hedrick said. “We had some pro scouts out to see those guys play. I thought our (Selby) pitched extremely competitively. I was worried about him trying to get into a throwing contest with Morse. I was really proud of the way he competed and changed speeds and kept us in the game. He didn’t try to overpower the hitters.”
The two wins moved the Yellow Jackets closer to clinching the ODAC title. The two losses by the Hornets eliminated them from being able to win their fifth-straight ODAC regular season title. The two losses also snapped Shenandoah’s 16-game winning streak.
Anderson said he’s confident his team will bounce back and close the regular season out strong.
“This team has handled adversity before,” he said. “We were 10-6 at one time and ran off 16-straight wins. So we need to right the ship and get moving in the right direction.”