HALFWAY — Trevor Hatcher’s two-run home run gave Valley a 2-1 lead, and Valley added five runs on four hits in the third inning en route to a 7-4 victory over host Halfway in the Maryland District 1 11-12 Tournament losers’ bracket semifinal at Nicholas James Adenhart Memorial Field.
Valley will travel to play Federal this evening at 6 in the losers’ bracket final. Valley will do so without manager Mike Mathias, who was suspended for two games after reserve Will Merritt failed to get a plate appearance.
Merritt came in at the ninth spot to play catcher in the top of the fourth inning. Valley went down 1-2-3 in both the fourth and fifth innings and did not have to bat with the lead in the bottom of the sixth. Merritt would have led off.
District 1 administrator Larry Hammond talked on the phone with the Eastern Region headquarters, which made the ruling to suspend Mathias, but stopped short of forcing Valley to forfeit — an optional penalty the Eastern Region could have imposed.
“My assistant came up to me before the fifth and told me he hadn’t hit yet. There wasn’t much I could do,” Mathias said.
“I hoped we would get through the order and get him up, but it didn’t happen. ... I didn’t even think about it, I was so happy the kids were winning,” Mathias said.
Halfway manager Mike Gooden was gracious, giving credit to Valley for playing well.
“Hat’s off to them. They’re a good team,” Gooden said. “The kid who hit the home run, that was a big blow, and good for him. It seemed when we needed the big hit, we just didn’t get it.”
Halfway took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second on Bryce Showe’s RBI single, but a 4-6-3 double play turned by Bryce Scharenbroch, Jared Durning and Hatcher ended the inning.
Hatcher launched a no-doubt blast to left on a 3-0 pitch in the bottom half for a 2-1 Valley lead.
“Trevor’s been struggling at the bat,” Mathias said. “I just wanted to try to get him something positive at the plate. The pitcher had to throw a strike, so if there was any time to break a slump, that was it.”
In the third, Chase Metz hit an RBI single, Duke Zimmerman added a sacrifice fly and three other runs scored on two Halfway errors — one a hard shot the snuck underneath the second baseman’s glove and rolled to the fence for two runs — to give Valley a 7-1 lead.
Halfway made it 7-2 in the fourth on Grant Adams’ RBI single, but had runners thrown out at third for the first out and at home for the third out when Merritt successfully blocked the plate while fielding the throw to snuff out a rally.
Halfway cut the lead to 7-4 in the fifth on two hits — one an RBI single by Bryse Ruppenthal — and a fielding error. But that was all Halfway could manage.
Valley starter Ryan Bywaters allowed two runs on four hits and five walks with three strikeouts in four-plus innings to get the win.
Valley lost to Federal 7-3 in the winners’ bracket semifinals on Sunday. Frank Bywaters will manage the rematch for Valley tonight.
“We need to bring our sticks,” Mathias said. “Everyone from top to bottom needs to hit. Our defense is there.”