It was little surprise that Monday’s meeting between Orange County and Western Albemarle lasted less than 90 minutes long or that it was a low scoring affair. The battle that featured vaunted starting pitchers Derek Domecq and Bradley Hanner turned out to be as good as advertised. And with some strong defensive plays behind him and a little opportunistic hitting in the third inning, it was Domecq and the Warriors who managed to come away with a 2-0 win.
“It’s hard to get beat if the other team can’t score any runs,” said Western coach Skip Hudgins. “All we’ve done though is get off to a great start. We still have to keep playing well. But one of the encouraging things tonight was that we had a lot of quality at bats against a really good pitcher.”
In a game defined by quality pitching, there were 22 strikeouts between the two teams with Domecq collecting 12 of them. Between the second and the sixth where he sat down 12 straight batters, the Western junior struck out nine. The Hornets had just three base runners all game and only one got into scoring position.
“Hats off to Domecq because he can play,” said Orange coach Dave Rabe. “He’s not fancy, quirky or anything else. He just grabs the ball and gets through his wind up and brings it at you. We couldn’t adjust to his speed or his movement.”
Western picked up both runs of the game in the bottom of the second. The lone rally of the contest started with Luke Tenuta reaching on an error, then a walk to Jack Masloff followed by another error to allow Caleb Campbell get on gave the Warriors the bases loaded with nobody out. That set the table for Sam James who delivered a hit to right field to plate Tenuta.
“I just had to take what the pitcher was giving me there,” James said. “He gave me a fastball a little outside, middle high and so I took it over to second. I really just took it where it was.”
A bases loaded walk on a full count to Domecq allowed Masloff to score and make it 2-0. Hanner worked out of the jam with a strikeout and a ground out though That set up the Orange senior’s best stuff as he went on to retire 14 of the last 15 batters he faced to keep the Hornets still well in the contest.
“It was crazy to watch these two pitchers going at it,” James said. “It’s all about the little things in the end. Whoever wins the little things, makes the fewest mistakes ends up winning when it comes to these pitching duels.”
For the Hornets, getting to Domecq or the defense behind him proved to be problematic. Tre Smith had the hardest hit ball of the game, but his fly ball in the third to deep centerfield was chased down to the warning track with James snagging it. After a pair of two-out hits in the first and second, Orange didn’t get another baserunner until Joel Wright doubled with two outs in sixth. Domecq responded by getting the third out with a ground ball on his next pitch though. And in the top of the seventh, he earned three more ground outs to wrap up the win.
“It was lot of fun to be out there battling with Bradley,” Domecq said. “He was hitting his spots and I was hitting mine. It was a battle of arms. I really had my defense behind me and Ryan Sukovich behind the plate, they all do such a great job.”
The best play defensively arguably came on the first play of the game when Western shortstop Wyatt Hull tracked down a foul ball in left field and made a diving catch.
“That play Wyatt makes there set the tone very early,” Domecq said. “It let everyone know that we were here to play.”
James and Domecq both finished 1-for-2 for Western. In his complete game victory, Domecq gave up three hits and no walks and struck out 12 of 24 batters he faced.
In Orange’s case, Wright and Hanner were both 1-for-3 while Keenan Williams was 1-for-2. While he was saddled with his first loss of the year, Hanner gave up no earned runs, just two hits and three walks and the senior finished with 10 strikeouts.
“In a 2-0 ballgame we helped Western a bit with those two runs so we can do better than that but it also comes down to that they put the ball in play and we didn’t,” Rabe said. “Three base runners is not enough and we just couldn’t get the bats rolling tonight.”
Western (8-1, 7-0) hosts Louisa County while Orange (10-2, 5-2) has Charlottesville at home with both games on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.