Prep Baseball Report

Briar Woods Wins 5A Title in Marathon

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By John Nolan
Virginia Assistant Director and Content Manager

Fairfax-A warm Saturday morning in June was the setting for the 2017 5A State Championship game at Robinson Secondary School. The game would be a rematch of the 5A North Region championship game from a week before, with Halifax County taking on Briar Woods. The previous week, Briar Woods’ bats exploded to beat a pitching-depleted Halifax team that had gone deep into extra innings in their Region Semifinal game. Halifax had gone into the tenth inning or later in two of their three Region games, a pattern that be renewed in this game. Both teams burned their aces in the semifinals on Friday, so both turned to their second options, junior Carlton Redd for Halifax and senior Sean Clark (Frederick CC) for Briar Woods.

Clark worked a perfect first inning and was added by a leaping catch by shortstop Jake Kleifges and a diving stop by second baseman Alex Bjornsen. In the bottom half of the inning, the Falcon double play combination got their bats going quickly. Kleifges led the inning off with a sharp single to left. Bjornsen followed that up with a double down the leftfield line. The throw back into the infield missed the cutoff man and the catcher, allowing Kleifges to score the game’s first run. Centerfielder Michael Ludowig (Wake Forest) drilled the first pitch he saw up the middle for a single, and Briar Woods would lead the game 2-0 after the first.

The next two innings went quickly, with neither pitcher allowing a baserunner. Clark was perfect through three innings with three strikeouts in that time. Redd settled in after that rough first, and added three strikeouts of his own during the second and third innings as the game headed to the fourth with Briar Woods still ahead 2-0.

In the top of the fourth, Halifax got their first baserunner as senior Andrew Abbott (Virginia) led the inning off with a single to left. A walk put the tying run on base with no outs, and then junior catcher Clay Lloyd lined a double up the right-center gap, scoring Abbott and putting two runners in scoring position. That would end Clark’s day as Briar Woods brought Ludowig in to pitch from centerfield to try to limit the damage. With the infield drawn in, Ludowig got a grounder for the first out. The next batter hit a popup into shallow center that would normally be a shortstop’s ball, but with the infield up, it was left to the new centerfielder, who dropped it at the end of a long run, allowing the tying run to score. An infield single loaded the bases with one out. Junior Josh Barker was able to flare a ball just over third base, dropping it into shallow leftfield for a single, scoring two runs and giving Halifax a 4-2 lead. Ludowig would stop the bleeding there, but the Comets had the lead.

Redd continued to be in control, allowing a lone baserunner in the fourth and working a perfect fifth inning. After his rough start, he would retire 16 out of 17 batters from the first inning into the sixth inning. Ludowig matched him with a scoreless fifth and sixth, keeping it a 4-2 game as the Falcons came up in the bottom of the sixth. Redd got the first out in the sixth, but a Ludowig double would end his day as Halifax turned to sophomore Drew Harlow. Harlow got two quick groundouts with the help of good plays by first baseman Hunter Watts and the game went to the seventh.

Ludowig got a pair of strikeouts in a perfect top of the seventh, and Briar Woods came to the plate trailing 4-2 and down to their last three outs. Harlow got the first out on a comebacker. Pinch hitter Brandon Hamm singled to left and then Jack Jaekle was hit by a pitch and Ty Germanowski (St. Bonaventure) drew a walk to load the bases and turn the lineup over. The brought up Kleifges, who smashed the first pitch just past the diving second baseman, driving in two runs and tying the game. With the game tied now, Briar Woods was looking to walk off to a win. Harlow got his composure and struck out Bjornsen. After an intentional walk to Ludowig, Harlow was able to blow a fastball by George Rosales to end the inning with the bases loaded and send the game into extra innings.

The eighth and ninth innings came and went quickly, Harlow settling in and Ludowig continuing to dominate. Ludowig finished his seventh inning of work with a perfect top of the tenth as well. In the bottom of the tenth, Briar Woods was able to load the bases with two outs after a Ludowig single and Clark was hit by a pitch, but Harlow was able to escape the jam again and send the game to the eleventh.

A leadoff walk in the top of the eleventh ended Ludowig’s day on the mound, and Jaekle came into relieve him. A successful sacrifice put the runner in scoring position for Halifax, but they could not cash him in. Harlow’s final inning was the bottom of the eleventh, and he worked a perfect frame to further extend the game.

Clark worked a quick twelfth and Halifax brought in sophomore Alex Lowery to continue the game. Lowery got two quick outs in the bottom half of the inning before hitting Rosales with a pitch and Clark dribbled an infield single up the third base line to put two runners on base. Lowery then got a strikeout to end the inning and continue the game.

In the top of the thirteenth, Halifax drew a leadoff walk and then a wild pitch put the go-ahead run in scoring position for their 3-4-5 hitters, but the Comets were unable to drive the run in with Harlow lining out to center to end the inning. Briar Woods got a base hit in the bottom half of the inning, but could not muster anything else against Lowery.

Jaekle worked a perfect top of the fourteenth and Briar Woods came to bat in the bottom half of the inning with the heart of the lineup due up as the game approached the four-hour mark. Lowery struck out Bjornsen to open the inning and then walked Ludowig. Rosales hit a tailor-made double play ball to third base, but the ball was bobbled and both runners were safe. Briar Woods pinch ran for Ludowig with junior Jake Rayfield because Ludowig’s hamstring was cramping so badly he could barely walk at this point in the game. That brought up Sean Clark, the game’s starting pitcher, and Clark bounced a single up the middle, Rayfield crossed the plate just ahead of the throw, scoring the winning run as Briar Woods walked off with a 5-4 victory and the State Championship.

Abbott 1-4, R
I. Powell 0-2
Lloyd 1-6, 2B, RBI, R
Powell 0-5, BB
Harlow 0-4, SAC, BB, R
Moore 1-5, R, BB
Barker 1-6, 2 RBI
Watts 0-4
Clark 0-2
Redd 0-1
Perkins 1-1
Lowery 0-3 

Redd 5.1 IP, 2 R, 5 H, 0 BB, 6 K
Harlow 5.2 IP, 2 R, 3 H, 2 HBP, 2 BB, 5 K
Lowery 2.1 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 1 HBP, 1 BB, 3 K 

Briar Woods
Kleifges 2-7, 2 RBI, R
Bjornsen 1-7, 2B, R
Ludowig 3-5, 2 BB, SB, RBI, 2B
Rosales 0-6, HBP
Clark 3-6, RBI, HBP
Ayers 0-6
Dengler 0-5
Hamm 1-1, R
Jaekle 0-5, HBP, R
Germanowski 1-5, BB 

Clark 3+ IP, 3 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 3 K
Ludowig 7+ IP, 1 R, 3 H, 3 BB, HBP, 9 K
Jaekle 4 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 1 BB, 3 K


Check the VA/DC Scout Blog later this week for scouting reports on players from this game.