Athletics News

Baseball

Skipjacks stick to the plan, eliminate Garrett
Chesapeake chases Piper early; Gardner and Felo combine on an eight-hitter

WYE MILLS – Chesapeake College’s baseball team had a game plan for facing Brandon Piper, the Garrett College pitcher who threw a four-hit shutout against the Skipjacks in the next-to-last game of the regular season.

All plans should work as well as this one did. The fourth-seeded Skipjacks (33-13) defeated fifth-seeded Garrett, 8-3, Saturday afternoon, ending Piper’s outing after just 4 2/3 innings in the first round of the NJCAA Division I Region XX tournament and advancing to the Region XX Final Four.

"Coach (Frank Szymanski) just told us to stay back on his curveball and changeup," said Mathieu Vallieres, who went 3-for-3 with a solo home run against Piper as part of a 4-for-5 effort. "He threw me a fast ball (on the home run) and I just jumped on it."

"We knew what pitches not to chase," said Andrew Markey, whose two-run single in the bottom of the fifth gave the Skipjacks the lead for good while knocking Piper out of the game. "Once we laid off his low changeup, he had to give us something else to hit and we got his pitch count up."

The Skipjacks have now reached consecutive Region XX Final Fours, both times by beating Garrett in the play-in game. And it means even more to the Skipjacks this year since they are hosting the Final Four for the first time.

"Losing today and not coming back to play in the Final Four when it’s on our own field would have been pretty bad for us," said Vallieres.

While the Skipjacks’ 14-hit offense was forcing Garrett head coach Eric Hallenbeck into four pitching changes, Chesapeake’s Devin Gardner and Billy Felo were combining on an eight-hitter. Gardner (6-1) spaced seven hits over five innings to earn the win, while Felo notched a save with four shutout innings.

"It was exciting," Gardner said of his playoff start. "I like getting the ball, especially in big games. And this was a big game for us to get into the (Final Four) playoffs."

"For Devin to come in and do what he did against a team that can hit as well as Garrett was courageous," said Szymanski. "And Billy Felo was just very consistent. He threw strikes and changed speeds very well."

Felo came in to protect a 4-3 lead and completely slammed the door on the Lakers, allowing one hit and retiring the final 11 batters.

"I was just concentrating on throwing strikes and keeping it on the outside part of the plate," said Felo. "I was keeping the ball down well and my curve was working pretty well, too."

Garrett took 1-0 and 3-1 leads thanks in large part to Jason Ashby, who doubled in a third-inning run and then delivered another RBI double before scoring on a wild pitch as part of a two-run fifth inning.

The Skipjacks answered back with a three-run rally in the home fifth. J.J. Corriveau led off with a single back through the middle and Vallieres followed with a bloop hit to center. Mike Turner (3-for-5, run, RBI) then lined a single into center field, scoring Corriveau to bring the Skipjacks within 3-2.

Mike Liddell followed with a groundout to third, moving Vallieres to third and Turner to second. Piper struck out Jesse Savage for the second out, but Markey then delivered his single to left-center that chased Piper while scoring both Vallieres and Turner for a 4-3 lead.

"I just relaxed and tried not to do too much," said Markey, who had grounded out two innings earlier with runners at second and third. "I just had to realize I have guys around me who can hit, too."

The Skipjacks stretched their lead to 6-3 with a pair of sixth-inning runs. Corriveau (2-for-5, three runs, RBI) tripled in Derek Richards, who had singled, and then scored himself on a wild pitch.

Chesapeake put together another two-run rally in the eighth built around a run-scoring hit by Vallieres (two runs, two RBI) and two infield errors by the Lakers. Garrett finished with three errors.

The Skipjacks will face top-seeded defending champion Hagerstown Community College in the first round of the double-elimination Region XX Final Four Friday at 1 p.m. Second-seeded Potomac State (W.Va.) College takes on third-seeded Anne Arundel Community College in the 10 a.m. first-round game.

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