Gloucester upsets unbeaten No. 1 seed Menchville to advance to Class 5 state tournament
By Larry Rubama, The Virginian-Pilot,2023-06-01
When Gloucester baseball coach Gus Morande looked to the pitcher’s mound at War Memorial Stadium on Wednesday, he saw tears streaming down the face of senior Camden Richardson.
But they were tears of joy.
Richardson had come on in relief and held unbeaten top seed Menchville scoreless in the bottom of the seventh inning to help Gloucester upset the Monarchs 4-3 in the Class 5 Region B semifinals. The victory helped the Dukes clinch a state tournament berth for the first time since 2010 and ended the Monarchs’ 20-game winning streak.
“It’s what we work for every year,” Morande said. “We’ve been in the regional the last five or six years, but it’s always been one and done. We just couldn’t get over the hump. For some reason, this group has it. We’re playing three freshmen and two sophomores. This is a fun group.”
Morande has been trying to get Richardson on the mound in relief all season. But for whatever reason, it never worked.
With the Dukes leading 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh, he got him in.
Starter Austin Shackelford had pitched a great game until then, allowing seven hits. And two of the runs Menchville scored came on a misplayed ball.
When Mason Mitchell reached on an infield single, Morande brought Richardson in to finish the job.
The first batter hit a bouncer back to him. He fielded it and nearly helped turn a double play. The second batter hit a line drive back at him. Again he nearly turned a double play, but got the forceout at second. After a walk, he got the final batter to ground out.
“I was ready. I wanted to shut them down,” said Richardson, who jumped into catcher Hank Hardaway’s arms after the final out was recorded. “It was amazing. It was my biggest moment ever.”
Seeing the Dukes advance to the state tournament for the first time in more than 10 years in his senior year made it even more special.
“It means everything to me because it’s been forever,” he said. “I’m glad it could be me.”
The Dukes, who will play Nansemond River for the region title, jumped on Menchville early.
They scored two runs in the first on RBIs from Hayden Simmons and Richardson. They added another run in the second on Grayson Shield’s single.
“We thought if we could get to them early, it would be key. I don’t think they’ve played from behind all year,” Morande said. “We didn’t know how they were going to react. Plus, they haven’t played in two weeks. So we wanted to get on them early and just hold on. And we did. We held on.”
The Monarchs (20-1) kept the game close, but the Gloucester refused to give in. The Dukes had some confidence after they nearly beat Menchville on May 4.
“It was a 1-0 game the last time, and we had opportunities,” Morande said. “The last ball we hit in the sixth inning with the bases loaded, the guy in center field made a great diving catch to end the inning. And they held on.”
This time, it was the Dukes’ turn.
“It was very close the last time and it gave us a lot of confidence,” Richardson said. “We lost to them two times, and the third time we finally got them.”
The Dukes play Nansemond River in the Class 5 Region B finals on Friday at 6 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium. The Warriors held off Maury 4-3 to advance to the state tournament for the second consecutive season.
Last season the Warriors were led by Mark Stuffel , who stepped down after the season.
Former Nansemond River star Ty Rivers replaced him.
Rivers helped lead the Warriors to a No. 1 ranking in Hampton Roads for two weeks. But then they suffered one loss after another to fall out of the Top 15.
But the Warriors turned their season around late, including winning seven of their last eight games.
“We’ve gone through some adversity, but we’ve bounced back,” Rivers said. “People had counted us out. We had eight losses. But don’t let those eight losses fool you. We’re coming.”
Nansemond River took the early 4-1 lead thanks to Cam Bauswell, who had two hits and three RBIs. But Maury cut the deficit to 4-3 in the bottom of the fifth.
Before the start of the bottom of the seventh, with the Warriors still leading by one, Rivers visited senior pitcher Thomas Wolfe on the mound.
“I told him to finish this thing off,” Rivers told Wolfe. “He’s done a great job all year, 6-1 until this point. There’s nobody I’d rather have the ball in his hands than Thomas. And he finished the job.”
Larry Rubama, 757-575-6449, firstname.lastname@example.org Follow @LHRubama on Twitter.