Longhorns finish on a high note
Published 10:34 pm Friday, July 19, 2013
Windsor Longhorns Mustang team coach Travis Luter was just hoping to end his team’s season on a high note.
By last week, the regular season had long been over, but Luter had noticed a tournament Pony Baseball had created specifically for teams with no travel-ball or select-level players. His Longhorns team met this qualification, but there were not enough Windsor players to form an all-star team. He decided to enter the tourney with his regular season squad.
“I just had no idea what to expect, and I was shocked, to say the least,” he said.
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The Longhorns went 3-0 last week to win the 2013 East Zone Baseball Mustang South Region Virginia State Championship.
There were four teams in the double-elimination tourney, and though the other leagues were fielding their “B” all-star teams, with only recreation league players, they still came from a comparatively large pool. Luter said that the Chesterfield Baseball Club out of Midlothian sent two teams narrowed down from the 24 in its league.
Though they had experience playing together, the Longhorns players still had to improvise a bit, since usual first baseman Bryson Parsain was out with a knee injury.
“It’s a family environment on the team,” Luter said. “The pulled together, they worked hard, they wanted to play for each other, and it worked.”
The Longhorns opened the tourney by beating the CBC Americans 14-4 and then took down the CBC Nationals 8-7. The latter team fought its way out of the losers’ bracket, setting up a showdown Luter called “a battle like no other.” Because of their previous loss, the Nationals would have to win a doubleheader to clinch the title, but Windsor aimed to end their bid in the first game.
“That was probably one of the more nerve-wracking games I’ve been involved in,” Luter said.
After the first inning, the Longhorns trailed 3-1, but then rattled off six runs in the second. After that, it was a back and forth game, with a tie on the scoreboard at the end of the fourth, fifth and sixth, forcing an extra inning.
Luter was nervous, because his team’s offense had not produced many runs since the second inning.
Then the team’s heavy hitter, Jacob Hudson, came to bat. He had been walked three times, but when the Nationals had to pitch to him, he hit two doubles, including one in the seventh.
“They walked my big guy to get to who they didn’t think was going to hit,” Luter said.
That batter was Jared Littlefield, who had made the Nationals pay once and this time scored Hudson. Then Andy Harmon scored Littlefield and later stole home. Michael Huffman also stole home after being walked, and the Longhorns’ five-run rally ended with Gavin Tomlin singling to score Brennan Trump. The score was now 17-12.
Now it was the Nationals’ turn at bat, and Luter had a big decision to make. “We rode two pitchers through the whole tournament,” he said.
Hudson would pitch the first three innings and Barrett Ferguson would throw the last three. The rules at that age level state that any pitcher throwing for more than three innings in a game must have 40 hours of rest afterward. If Luter used Ferguson for a fourth inning and the Longhorns lost, they would have to play the next day without one of their two best pitchers.
He opted to keep Ferguson on the mound, and a three-up, three-down inning sealed the victory.
“We had played together all year, so we knew how we play,” he said. “We had good teamwork.”