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Holland Palomino squad finishes 1-2 at tournament

VIRGINIA BEACH – The primary purpose behind baseball players from Lakeland and Windsor high schools forming Holland’s Palomino league (19-and-under) baseball team for the summer is to improve by playing a lot of games over the summer.

By playing well last week and finishing second in a district tournament in Virginia Beach, Holland advanced to the East Zone, South Region Tournament.

Playing at the regional level, mostly against older opponents, even some collegiate players, promised to give the Cavaliers and Dukes good experience.

Holland was forced to gain some experience in ways no one likes getting it in two of its three games Thursday and Friday at Lynnhaven Baseball Complex.

The Cavs lost 15-0 against Proehlific Power of Greensboro, N.C. Thursday to fall into the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination tourney. Late Friday night, Holland was eliminated by a 16-1 loss against Lynnhaven.

Earlier Friday though, Holland earned a good measure of positive reinforcement to go along with the blowouts. With a complete game on the mound by David Waterfield and Colby Bennett’s RBI single in the bottom of the seventh, Holland edged Kempsville 3-2.

“We tried to give it away, but the guys certainly played hard,” said Holland head coach Paul Strange.

“I think we left 16 guys on base, but we got one in when we had to,” Strange said.

Holland survived two errors and Kempsville loading the bases in the top of the first.

From the end of the first to the sixth inning, no Kempsville runner reached second base. Waterfield, a rising senior at Lakeland, gave up no walks and struck out no one. He made Kempsville put the ball in play and, at least after the shaky start, Holland’s defense took good care of the rest.

Meanwhile, Holland managed only five hits, but with the aid of eight walks, a hit batter and two Kempsville errors, its coach’s frustration was understandable.

In the Holland second, Tyler Strange walked to start the frame, but was still on second with two outs. Zack Keeling hit a soft liner that barely got by the Kempsville second baseman and shortstop. The shortstop kicked the ball toward right-center field, giving Strange time to score.

Holland put four runners on base but somehow couldn’t score in the third. Leadoff hitter Nate Meeks was doubled off second by a lineout. The Cavs proceeded to load the bases with a hit batter, a single and a walk, but Randall Jones flew out to left field for the third out.

Holland left two more runners on in the fourth, but scraped a run together in the fifth without a hit.

The 2-0 lead was enough for Holland and Waterfield until one out in the top of the seventh. Back-to-back Kempsville pinch hitters came up with a double and a home run, suddenly tying the game.

There wasn’t a big blast to or over the outfield fence, but Holland answered in the home half of the seventh.

Strange reached first thanks to a wild throw by Kempsville’s second baseman. Jones successfully bunted Strange to second. Bennett got the game-winning hit, a sharp grounder into center.

A half-hour after eliminating Kempsville, the Cavs faced another knockout game. It went fine for the Cavs for a couple innings, but the game fell apart quickly.

Meeks started on the hill and, despite giving up four hits and two walks, he held Lynnhaven to one run through two innings.

Taking advantage of two walks, Holland scored, with Strange coming down the line on a wild pitch, to make it 1-1 headed to the third inning.

Lynnhaven’s sluggers and three walks got to Meeks in the third and Lynnhaven led 6-1 through three. Holland tried four different pitchers in the Lynnhaven fourth, but it was clear Holland was simply out of pitching. Lynnhaven scored nine runs in the fourth to put the game out of reach.

Making the regional tournament an even tougher task for the Cavs was playing without the two college ballplayers, Jeremy and Jarrett Hagwood, 2009 Lakeland alums now playing at Virginia Wesleyan.

Combining the high school and PONY seasons, the Cavaliers and Dukes on the Holland team played more than 60 games from March-July.