After an 0-9 start to its season, the Culpeper baseball team has shown its resiliency time after time. Most recently, the Blue Devils rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat defending Class 3 state champion Spotsylvania 5-3 in Friday’s Region 3B quarterfinals.
That same resiliency was present once again on Tuesday night, as the Blue Devils attempted to battle back from a late four-run deficit against Warren County in the regional semifinals. However, their rally came up just short, and the Wildcats escaped with a 4-3 victory at Front Royal’s Bing Crosby Stadium.
Warren County (16-5) struck first in the second inning against Culpeper starting pitcher Kyle McMeans. An RBI single from Wildcats starting pitcher Joseph Sorge scored Ronald Dodson to give the home team a 1-0 lead, though a strong throw from Blue Devils right fielder Harry Bradshaw gunned down a would-be second run at the plate.
McMeans went three innings for Culpeper (7-15) allowing just the one run on three hits while striking out one.
The Blue Devils had multiple scoring opportunities throughout the game, none bigger than in the third when they loaded the bases with no outs. Sorge was able to bear down though retiring the next three batters to preserve the 1-0 lead for Warren County.
Trailing 2-0, Culpeper put the leadoff man aboard in the fourth, but couldn’t bring him around to score. In the fifth, junior shortstop Eric Wilson was thrown out at the plate while trying to score on a wild pitch by Sorge.
Sorge went 5 1/3 innings to collect the win for the Wildcats, surrendering three runs on five hits while walking five and striking out three..
Culpeper head coach Brandon Mack spoke about the missed opportunities his team had.
“The bases-loaded situation with no outs was a big scoring opportunity,” he said. “There were a couple pitch calls that didn’t go our way that I wish we could have back, but we have to execute on those.”
Warren County added to its lead in the fifth, taking advantage of Culpeper miscues. The Wildcats were able to put a pair of runners aboard against reliever Jakob Dudley, and an error and a bases-loaded walk stretched the lead to 4-0 as a result.
With their backs against the wall, the Blue Devils began to rally in the sixth after senior catcher Ben Anderson drew a walk. Dudley followed with a sharp single and after McMeans advanced the runners, Bradshaw delivered a two-run single to cut the Warren County advantage to 4-2.
A freshman, Bradshaw was 2-for-3 with two RBIs in the game.
Mack spoke about the production he got from Bradshaw.
“It was phenomenal,” he said. “You put that kid in that situation where you need him to get a job done, and he has a focus I’ve never seen a ninth-grader have.”
Behind 4-3 in the seventh, Culpeper turned to the heart of its order to save the season. A two-out walk by Dudley and a hit by pitch from McMeans put the tying and go-ahead runs on base, respectively, but Wildcats reliever Jackson Arnold was able to get Bradshaw to ground out to Sorge at second to end the game.
What began as a frustrating start to the season turned into a solid second half for the Blue Devils.
“It’s just all love,” Dudley said of his teammates. “We told each other that we love each other. These guys are going to be great next season.”
Mack closed his postgame speech with a tribute to his six seniors.
“This is the most passionate group of seniors I’ve ever had,” he said. “All of them came out, worked hard and played with a lot of emotion. I appreciate everything they’ve ever done for us and they showed the younger guys how to win ballgames.”