Dukes Claim Region XIX Title
With five big insurance runs in the eighth inning, the Dukes pulled away late to bring home the program's first region championship. Cumberland won by a score of 11-4.
After edging Cumberland yesterday afternoon, Gloucester jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning, but the Dukes answered back with three runs of their own in the bottom half of the second.
In that frame, a Jose Martinez single started the rally followed by a Cody Stashak single and a Tyler Mixon bunt for a hit that would make any big-time baseball fan come to their feet. Back- to-back walks plated a pair of runs and then Mixon came around to score on a fielder's-choice-out at second off the bat of freshman Robert Bunton.
That one run lead held up another four innings until the Roadrunners tied the game on an RBI single from freshman outfielder Shane Brown. Like the last time Gloucester scored, Cumberland had another answer.
Lead-off hitter Tim Gallagher reached on a line drive to right, and then scored on the next batter after an Anthony Lopez line drive snuck by a diving attempt by the left fielder. Two batters later, sophomore catcher Jose Martinez delivered two runs on a hard hit ball to center.
In the eighth, another Gloucester run and yet another Dukes answer. This time, Cumberland would put the game out of reach. Entering the bottom of the eighth frame, Cumberland was clinging to a two-run lead. When that inning came to an end, the Dukes had an 11-4 lead. Several players were beginning to crack smiles as they knew what they were on verge of completing.
In that inning, nine batters came to the plate, producing five runs on four hits, an error and a hit batsman. Bunton scored on a Lopez sacrifice fly, and Gallagher scored on a Jordan Glover double ripped over the right fielder's head.
After Martinez was hit by a pitch, sophomore Cody Stashak laced a triple down the left-field line, scoring Glover and Martinez and sending the Dukes dugout and crowd into a frenzy. Mixon brought in Stashak with an RBI single through the hole.
The Region XIX tournament came full-circle as Josh O'Neill, the man who started the Dukes run to the title with a complete game, closed out the championship game with a five-out save. As the final out landed in the glove of center-fielder Jordan Glover, the Cumberland dugout erupted and sprinted out to celebrate.
One of the first players sprinting out of the home team's dugout was starting pitcher Justin Geri, who went seven and one-third of an inning in what was a very gutsy performance. When told by Head Coach Keith Gorman he was going to get the ball Sunday directly following Saturday's loss, Geri responded by saying, "I live for moments like this." He did not disappoint.
The Dukes capped off a 41-7 regular season by winning five out of six to capture the Region XIX Championship. It was certainly a group effort, but in any post-season tournament, someone has to be named MVP. That honor went to second baseman Tyler Mixon for his outstanding performance throughout those six games.
With Sunday's historic victory for the program, the Dukes extended their season by earning a chance to play for the National Championship. The National Tournament features eight teams in a double elimination style format played in Tyler, TX over a span of six days. The tournament will begin on Saturday May 24th.