Riding the country roads from Broadway to Montezuma was commonplace for players from the Mountain State along for the journey as the Bruins devoured the Braves 6-1 in Rockingham County Baseball League action last Wednesday.
Local directions from an ice cream shop in Dayton informed folks to turn right at the next light and go down that country road all the way to the end, cross a bridge and the baseball field would be on the right by the cornstalks.
Cornstalks were abundant in this Virginia valley and the Montezuma Ruritan Park was picturesque with the surrounding farm acreage.
The Broadway Bruins have ten players from West Virginia and half of them hail from Hardy County: Bryce Strawderman (East Hardy/Ohio Valley University), Austin Whetzel (East Hardy/Salem International University), Jake Ours (Moorefield/Potomac State College), Lane Ours (Moorefield/Undecided) and Isaac Van Meter (Moorefield/Mount St. Mary’s University verbal commitment).
The five other Mountain State players are: John Judy (Hampshire/Eastern Mennonite University), Tyler Ault (Hampshire/Salem International University), Chase DeLauter (Hedgesville/James Madison University), Adam Riggleman (Elkins/Glenville State College) and Brett Whiteman (Frankfort/Potomac State College).
East Hardy alum Bryce Strawderman would be considered a veteran having played for the Bruins for four seasons making strides as an infielder at shortstop and second base; while Cougars teammate Austin Whetzel has been in Broadway for two years showing versatility being in the outfield and infield (first/third baseman) with both players being consistent at the plate.
Strawderman and Whetzel started for Broadway against the Braves, while Jake Ours came in as a substitute in the seventh inning.
Moorefield alum Jake Ours has been a Bruin for two seasons playing in the outfield and this year is joined by his younger brother Lane, who should see time as a catcher coming as a two-time state champion with the Yellow Jackets and graduated this summer and was given an opportunity to observe from the dugout this game in Montezuma.
Moorefield rising senior Isaac Van Meter is ranked as the second best pitcher in the state of West Virginia and leader on the two-time state championship roster having valuable talent to add to the Bruins roster in addition to being a solid shortstop, but didn’t make this trip to Montezuma.
The Hardy County contingent is excited to be playing baseball after the pandemic wiped out the high school and collegiate seasons and the crew is already making an impact including this contest against the Braves with Jake Ours creating a single and scoring a run to help Broadway improve to 3-1 this season.
“I like it. It is a great experience, especially for summer ball with everything going on right now. The best thing for me right now is meeting up with the guys I grew up with and it is just a good time being around these guys,” Broadway Bruins outfielder Jake Ours commented.
“It was nice to be able to contribute after getting off the bench and doing my part, because everybody on the team has a part to do. I was able to do mine tonight.”
After a disappointing double play hit by Tyler Ault in the top of the first inning, Chase DeLauter put the Bruins on top 1-nil crushing a solo home run off Montezuma pitcher Andrew Ward.
DeLauter was the starting pitcher for Broadway and didn’t allow any baserunners in the bottom of the first inning as Strawderman collected a grounder and threw to Whetzel for the initial out before DeLauter finished off the frame with a pair of strikeouts.
Unfortunately for Broadway the top of the second inning was quiet as the order went down on strikeouts by Ward sending the West Virginia trio of Whetzel, Judy and Strawderman to the dugout.
The Braves mounted a comeback taking a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second inning.
Montezuma’s P.J. Hanisak was hit by a pitch with one out and Tavian Hall drew a full-count walk before Michael Robertson connected for an RBI single to tie the game on a full-count.
Brandon Lambert hit into a fielder’s choice with Strawderman making the tag at second base for the Bruins.
Whetzel collected a grounder by Gavin Rush and applied the tag for the third out of the frame as Broadway and Montezuma remained deadlocked at one run apiece.
In the third inning, Broadway’s Matt Meiser hammered a double to the left field fence with one out and Travis Reifsnider drew a walk.
Ault’s fly ball was snatched in center field, then the throw to third base was caught by Montezuma’s Tavian Hall, who made a diving tag on Meiser who attempted to spin to his back during the slide trying to avoid the contact only to be called out on the double play.
Broadway third baseman Josh Jones went to pick up a grounder that appeared to have drifted foul, but was ruled fair for a single by Montezuma’s Kyle Armstrong.
A pop-up was caught by DeLauter just off the mound, then Armstrong was gunned down in a pickoff with Whetzel making the tag at first base.
“It’s amazing. Any time you get to play baseball is amazing. Being able to play for a community like this with the guys they bring in for us is a great time and it adds to our summer. Playing with other Hardy County boys is what makes it good. The other two I played them in high school and got to know them through that and playing with them throughout the summer. I consider them good friends of mine and adding carpool to that makes it that much more fun,” Broadway Bruins first baseman Austin Whetzel stated.
After issuing a walk to Adam Hackenburg, DeLauter ended the inning with a strikeout.
DeLauter was given a free pass to commence the fourth inning with the game tied, then Jones hit into fielder’s choice and the throw to first base was too high for a play to be made as he arrived.
Ward tossed another strikeout to Whetzel before Judy grounded out.
Montezuma failed to score in the bottom of the fourth inning, despite two runners reaching base as Hall walked and Robertson was hit by a pitch before a sacrifice bunt, strikeout and flyout quieted the chance to score.
Strawderman flew out to center field to begin the top of the fifth inning for the Bruins, then Austin Martin garnered a single.
“It has been a blast. It has been the time of my life playing out here. I love playing out here. I have been playing out here for four years now and have had fun every year I’ve been out here,” Broadway Bruins second baseman Bryce Strawderman remarked.
“I will be finishing my career at Ohio Valley University.”
Meiser squeezed a single into right field and was trying to create a double from that hit only to be tagged out sliding into second base and the inning ended on a strikeout to Reifsnider.
Broadway relief pitcher Adam Riggleman came in during the bottom of the fifth inning collecting a groundout and notching a strikeout on the first two batters faced prior to allowing a single by Montezuma’s Adam Hackenburg, who was stranded on a groundout.
The game was still locked a 1-all entering the sixth inning with Braves pitcher Jakob King coming to the mound.
Ault started off with a single and stolen base for the Bruins and DeLauter drew a walk before Jones was hit by a pitch to load the bases in the top of the sixth inning with no outs.
Broadway’s Ben Reid and John Judy were beaned to send two runners across home plate as the Bruins went ahead 3-1.
Keegan Oliver came in to pitch for Montezuma and executed two strikeouts on Strawderman and Riggleman and forced a groundout by Meiser to deny another run with the bases juiced.
Riggleman went to work on the mound again in the sixth inning jamming a flyout, coercing a groundout and spinning a strikeout to keep the Braves from making any noise.
Broadway went down in order during the top of the seventh inning as Reifsnider struck out, Ault grounded out and DeLauter’s fly ball was snagged deep in left field.
Potomac State College’s Jake Ours got the nod to play in right field for the Bruins in the bottom of the seventh inning.
After an error put Montezuma’s Gavin Rush on the base path, Armstrong singled off Riggleman and a fielder’s choice hit by Jeremy Wagner sent the first out at third base.
Ours tracked down a fly ball for the second out off the bat of Jacob Haney which drifted near the right field foul territory and Riggleman fielded a grounder for the last out preventing a score.
Jones kicked off the eighth inning with a single for the Bruins and advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Tanner Skidmore.
Judy bunted the ball and Montezuma pitcher Keegan Oliver’s throw was just off the mark forcing the first baseman to pull off from the bag to collect the ball on the single.
Montezuma pitcher Owen Stewart replaced Oliver and attempted a pickoff with Judy stealing second base, while the pass went awry into the outfield allowing Jones to score giving Broadway a 4-1 edge.
Broadway’s Cole Holsinger and Riggleman struck out leaving Judy remaining on the pond.
Riggleman sandwiched two strikeouts around a Hall single and a flyout to close out the eighth frame.
Broadway’s Jake Ours opened the ninth inning with a full-count single as the shortstop struggled to control the ball and beat the throw to first base.
A sacrifice bunt by Reifsnider moved Ours over to second base before Ault flew out.
DeLauter’s hit turned into an error as Ours came home giving the Bruins a 5-1 advantage.