State champs leash Bulldogs

Published 8:16 pm Wednesday, March 28, 2012

By Tray Mason
Correspondent

The King’s Fork Bulldogs couldn’t stand up at home on Tuesday against the defending AAA state champions, Great Bridge High School, losing 6-1.

Wildcats pitcher Troy Jones carried a no-hitter all the way into the sixth inning.

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Kings Fork third baseman Danny Gromkowski broke up the no-hit bid, with a double deep into left field. He was the only Bulldog to record a hit or RBI.

All no-hitters aside, Bulldog coach Pat Stafford had reason to be optimistic considering he had a sophomore pitcher, Coty Ward, on the mound taking on one of the toughest batting lineups in the state.

Ward pitched fairly well versus the Wildcats, going a complete seven innings with five earned runs and four strikeouts.

After a defensive blunder allowed two runs to score in the first inning, Ward pitched three straight hitless innings.

“He (Ward) got a lot of experience today,” Stafford said. “He did a great job, he threw strikes and got pop ups.”

Trailing just 2-0, things started to go south for Ward and the Bulldogs in the top half of the fifth inning.

With Great Bridge runners on first and second base, Steven Dudley lay down a bunt, which led to a huge collision at first base. After being fielded by Ward, the ball went flying past first base.

Both Wildcats would score, while Dudley would be tagged out at third base.

Ward would hit Connor Jones in the next at-bat, prompting Stafford to take a visit to the mound to calm the young pitcher.

“I told him just to relax and do his part,” Stafford said of the sequence. “We have a very good defensive outfield, and I told him to forget about the past errors and focus on what lies ahead.”

One of the few offensive highlights for KF came at the hands of Gromkowski.

With Jones retiring batter after batter, Gromkowski went toe to toe with Jones for 12 pitches in his chance at the plate.

He finished the at-bat with a fired shot to the right field warning track, scoring one runner in the process and breaking up the no-hitter.

“That’s one of the things we work on as hitters, extending the at-bat, and getting deep in the zone,” Stafford said. “Eventually the pitcher gets frustrated and gives you a pitch you can hit.”

King’s Fork is probably playing the toughest schedule of any team in the Hampton Roads area this week.

After facing Great Bridge on Tuesday, the Bulldogs play a makeup game at home versus a tough Grassfield team.

On Friday they travel to take on rival Nansemond River, widely regarded as one of the top teams in the state.

Both games begin at 5 p.m.