By Drew Goodman / Scrimmageplaycva.com contributor
In the unpredictable grind that is the 2018 Jefferson District baseball season, the outstanding play of Louisa County’s Lliam Grubbs has been one of the few constants night in and night out.
Whether it be from the pitcher’s mound or the batter’s box, the battle-tested senior has been there whenever the Lions needed him.
On Thursday night at Albemarle, Grubbs used his arm and his bat to help Louisa outlast the host Patriots 4-3 to sweep the season series.
Grubbs pitched a complete game, allowing just three hits and striking out eight batters. The multi-dimensional veteran also delivered a huge RBI double to open the scoring for the visitors.
Grubbs pitched the first three innings like he had somewhere else to be that night, mowing down each of the first nine Patriot batters. Albemarle made very little contact with the ball until the bottom of the fourth inning after Grubbs was working with a 4-0 lead. After surrendering a trio of runs in the bottom of the fourth, Grubbs returned to his old ways, and the Patriots did not threaten again until the very end.
“I was definitely hitting my spots,” Grubbs said. “My fastball was locating pretty well. My off-speed was so-so, but I was really feeling my fastball tonight.”
Albemarle placed two runners in scoring position in the bottom of the seventh before Grubbs and company recorded the last out of the game to seal the win.
As impressive as he was from the mound, Grubbs gave his team a tremendous lift from the plate was well. Knotted at four in the top of the fourth inning, Grubbs blasted an RBI double to centerfield to bring home Matthew West and draw first blood in the game.
Then, Jack McDonald singled up the middle to score Grubbs, much to the delight of the revved-up visitors’ dugout. Louisa nearly batted around in the bottom of the fourth, scoring four runs off of four hits.
“The big thing that inning overall for us was that we did a better job of going up the middle with pitches,” Louisa head coach Kevin Fisher said. “I thought earlier in the game, we were getting on our front foot and we weren’t doing a good job making adjustments, and in that inning, in particular, we had at least two hits up the middle.”
Garrett Duerson and Owen Agee also delivered clutch hits for the Lions in the top of the fourth.
As disappointed as Albemarle was with surrendering a quartet of runs in the top half of the inning, the Patriots could not wait to have their turn on offense in the bottom of the frame.
Ryan Porter finally broke the dry spell and singled to left field for Albemarle’s first hit of the game. After working his way to third base, Ryan Porter later put the Patriots on the board following a sac fly from Alex Petroka. The Patriots then took advantage of a pair of Louisa errors to pull within one run, after Austin Porter and Chase Miller each crossed the plate.
After staring at a 4-0 hole against a tough pitcher, the home team nearly erased the deficit before the Lions were up to bat again.
Grubbs settled down for the fifth and sixth innings, but the Patriots made one final push in the seventh. Twice down to their last strike with two outs, both Porter brothers singled, and eventually reached scoring position, before Louisa finally thwarted the comeback attempt.
“I’m just proud of our kids with all of the adversity that we’re facing,” Albemarle head coach Jimmy Bibb said. “I’m so tickled for our guys; they battled all night long and had a chance in the end… [Grubbs] is a really good pitcher. I thought we put the ball in play off of him a little bit… All of our kids battled, every one of them.”
Ryan Porter notched two of Albemarle’s three hits on the night.
The flu bug is the adversity that Bibb is talking about. Six Patriots missed Tuesday night’s clash with Western Albemarle and four sat out Thursday’s game, including the program’s three top pitchers, all dealing with illness.
Being one of the few healthy arms on the entire roster, junior Aiden McClune got the start for AHS. Like his Lion counterpart, McClune kept the powerful Louisa lineup at bay for the first three innings, allowing just one hit and making several big defensive plays in the process.
Things began to unravel for the pitcher/infielder in the bottom of the fourth but responded by retiring the Lions in order in the next two innings. McClune pitched 6.1 inning, allowing just five hits and striking out a trio of batters.
“To give us that kind of effort after not pitching almost all year long was just awesome,” Albemarle head coach Jimmy Bibb said.