Galloping Ghosts Are Number One!
Sports / Jun. 20, 2013 11:01am EDT
Every year, only four baseball teams in the state end their season on a winning note, and on Monday, the Randolph Ghosts were the ones hoisting the 2013 Division III state championship trophy. In a tense championship match they defeated BFA-Fairfax, 3-2 in front of a roaring crowd at Burlington’s Centennial Field.
BFA came into the game as the number one seed after an undefeated 12-0 season, during which they had never scored fewer than six runs.
The championship, only the second in the baseball program’s history and first since 1989, was an especially sweet moment for the six departing seniors who endured many hard seasons filled with losses and injuries. On Monday, the team rode a complete-game pitching performance from their ace, senior Jacob Sprague, aided by a few timely hits.
The game began late, after a long rain delay where the groundskeepers tried to clear the field of standing water from a torrential downpour earlier in the day. When the contest finally got underway, neither team was able to get a hit for the first three innings.
The first offensive threat for Randolph was extinguished quickly, as a double play turned by Bullet third baseman Kyle Combs in the second inning stole a sure double from Alex Delhagen and also removed the Ghost baserunner from first, where he had reached on a walk.
Randolph continued to threaten in the first couple innings, but was unable to break through the strong pitching of Ben Pomichter and his solid Bullet defense. In the regular season, Pomichter was almost unhittable, only allowing 13 hits in 38 innings while tallying 71 strikeouts and holding a miniscule 0.91 earned run average.
BFA Strikes First
In the bottom of the fourth, BFA-Fairfax finally got to Sprague, whose good pitch location had held them hitless so far.
After Alex Chapman walked, Kris Wehner singled to right, putting runners on first and third with no outs. A sacrifice fly scored Chapman from third, and the next batter followed up with a single that scored Wehner and gave the Bullets the 2-0 lead.
The very next inning, Randolph responded.
Pomichter hit Brandon Keyes to begin the inning and then walked Ben Jickling and Sprague backto back to load the bases. Junior catcher Ross Caswell then delivered his biggest hit of the season, a deep shot into the outfield that scored Keyes and Jickling and tied the score back up, 2-2.
After a BFA pitching change, the outburst continued as senior Zach Laperle made another huge hit, a single to center that scored Sprague on a close play at home, giving Randolph what would be the winning run.
Closing It Out
Sprague retired the side easily in the bottom of the fifth, and Caswell caught a Bullet runner trying to steal second in the bottom of the sixth to preserve the slim lead going into the final inning.
Sprague pitched a masterful game, holding a team that averaged 12 runs a game throughout the regular season and batted a scorching .392 team average to only three hits in the entire contest.
In the late innings, the Ghosts were hindered by their poor baserunning, as they were picked off three times by a deceptive move by Bullet reliever Zac Roy.
But luckily, no insurance runs were needed. Sprague calmly struck out the final batter, stranding a runner on second base and setting off a crazy celebration for the team and the hundreds of fans that made the trip to see the championsip game.
As the team returned to Randolph that night, the bus was met with fire trucks, police cruisers, and a line of cars who all participated in the impromptu parade through the downtown streets.
The game followed the same trend that emerged throughout the year; and the unique Randolph style—characterized by unflappable defense, pitching that was stingy with walks and hits alike, and gritty and timely hitting—gave the team their biggest win of their careers.
It was the biggest victory also for Coach Mike Czok, giving him the first championship of his 20-year coaching career and something he definitely will remember forever.
“To win a state title is something every coach hopes for ... I’m not a ‘rah-rah’ guy and don’t usually say a lot, but it all got to me in a deep personal way, definitely one of the best days of my life,” Czok said afterwards.
It was a statement that can be echoed by all 14 elated members of his championship team.