Poquoson High’s improbable dream of a baseball state championship in a rebuilding season seemed possible for 4½ innings Saturday. Then reality and the bats of Lebanon hit hard.
The host Pioneers, from Russell County in Southwest Virginia, scored nine runs on eight hits in the bottom of the fifth inning to break open a tie game on their way to a 10-1 victory in the Class 2 state championship game. That snapped a 13-game win streak for the Islanders (13-3), who came up short in their quest for a fourth state title in 20 years.
Lebanon pitcher Matthew Buchanan, a U.Va.-bound left-hander who entered the game having not allowed a run in 44⅔ innings this season, was as good as advertised. Buchanan (8-0) pitched a four-hitter and struck out 14 as the Pioneers improved to 19-0.
But the Islanders were competitive against him early and threatened to score in each of the first three innings. They took advantage of a walk and an error to score in the top of the first to take a 1-0 lead.
Chase Horton led off the game by working Buchanan for a walk and stole second. Horton scored the first run of the season against Buchanan on a throwing error on Josh Markley’s grounder.
“I thought we battled real well at the plate and had some real good at-bats,” said Poquoson coach Ken Bennett, whose team stranded runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings, including two at third base. “Uncharacteristically, we didn’t play good defense.
“We’re not going to win the way we played defense today.”
The Islanders, strong defensively throughout 2021, gave the run back in the bottom of the second, when they committed three of their six errors. Seth Buchanan, Matthew’s brother, reached on a throwing error, stole second and scored on an errant throw following a flyout.
The bright spot for the Islanders was freshman pitcher Maxim Fritts. He limited the Pioneers to one run on three hits through the first four innings, but was relieved with the game tied at 1 after giving up a leadoff single in the bottom of the fifth.
The floodgates opened from there as usually reliable Justin Bradshaw, who had allowed just two runs in 20 innings this season, was tattooed by the Pioneers. Preston Steele gave the Pioneers a 2-1 lead with an RBI single to center.
Tanner King’s three-run double broke the game open. Nick Belcher followed with a two-run homer and Anthony Houching hit a solo shot to punctuate a nine-run inning that ended the state championship dreams of the Islanders — still justifiably proud of their season.
“I told our kids it’s supposed to hurt when you work for something and aren’t successful,” Bennett said. “But I told them when we started 0-2, nobody thought we were supposed to be here. So this season will feel real, real special when the hurt stops.”
Horton said, “It was a heck of a ride. We gave all of our heart and fight and I wouldn’t have wanted to be with any other team.”
Poquoson 100 000 0 — 1 4 6
Lebanon 010 090 x — 10 10 2
W-M. Buchanan, L-Bradshaw. HR-Lebanon, Belcher, Houching.
Marty O’Brien, 757-247-4963, firstname.lastname@example.org