It was a spirited run to the final game for the Benedictine Cadets, who charged through two nail-biting playoff games to make the VISAA Division I state championship, where they fell to the Cape Henry Dolphins 6-2 in front of a packed house at Shepard Stadium in Colonial Heights.
The Cadets needed a complete-game shutout by sophomore Jake Wise, and an RBI single from junior Riley Roarty, to escape the scrappy Miller School of Albemarle Mavericks in their first postseason game. They followed that by posting a game-winning two-run RBI single from senior Daniel Lingle in the bottom of the sixth to get past the Paul VI Panthers for a shot at the state title.
Their reward for those wins? A date with the defending champion Cape Henry Dolphins, who captured the two-seed entering the tournament and needed to win two close games to reach the final.
Cape Henry survived an extra-innings 6-5 finish against St. Christopher’s in its first matchup, which then led to a highly-anticipated showdown with the three-seeded Collegiate Cougars, who took an early 3-1 lead on the Dolphins but were outscored 4-0 from the fourth inning to the finish.
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The Dolphins never trailed the championship game at any point, but the Cadets were never far behind thanks to an admirable performance defensively that was led on the mound by Roarty. The pitcher started the contest and pitched three innings, allowing four hits and two runs.
After a two-run RBI triple from Cape Henry’s Parker Wight opened scoring in the top of the second, Benedictine was quick to respond in the bottom of the third when Roarty doubled on a line drive to right field to bring home Elijah Coston, who previously nailed a much-needed double of his own with a center field shot that bounced off the wall.
In the top of the fourth, Wise was introduced into the game as Benedictine’s second pitcher, but his day took an early hit when Wight had his second big hit of the day, this time homering a shot down right field for two more Dolphins runs to make it a 4-1 lead entering the bottom of the fourth.
Wise and the defense settled down after that home run, getting three outs on three batters in the top of the fifth to keep the score close. The offense responded with three players getting on base and the team adding another run on a shortstop error that cut the deficit to 4-2.
After another strong defensive outing, the Cadets had a huge opportunity to carry their fifth-inning momentum over into the bottom of the sixth. And while two walks got runners on first and second, a back-breaking double play on a line drive ended the inning with the Cadets scoreless.
In the top of the seventh, Benedictine head coach Sean Ryan made his final pitching change in the hopes of creating another spark to get the defense off the field, this time turning to Jagen Ratlief, but Cape Henry was able to pull away with two more runs in the inning. The first came on an error off a bunt, and the second came on a bases-loaded walk on a 3-2 count with two outs.
When the defense got off the field on a pop-out in foul territory by Roarty at first base, the Cadets had one final chance to pull off the comeback. And though a walk on Coston started things off with promise, the Dolphins were able to finish the job with three straight outs to put the game away and hoist the state championship trophy for the second consecutive year.
Though not the desired outcome, it was an excellent season of baseball for the Cadets, who finished the year with a 24-8-1 record and a state runner-up trophy to their name.