Both teams had the opportunity to send a message. With several Bay Rivers players and coaches in attendance to watch the showdown of the last two remaining unbeaten baseball teams in the district, Grafton delivered a strong one.
The Clippers put together an impressive all-around performance Friday afternoon in besting previously unbeaten Warhill 13-0 at home to take over sole possession of first place in the district.
Blake Ream dazzled in his first extended outing of the season on the mound, earning the complete-game shutout victory after holding Warhill hitters to just two hits and eight strikeouts. Offensively, four different Grafton batters recorded multiple hits, although none feasted more than senior transfer Kyrie Washington, who capped off a monster 4-5 day at the plate with a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning that ended the game via the 10-run mercy rule.
“Today was the first complete game we’ve played all season,” Clippers coach Matt Lewellen said after the game. “We’ve been playing great defensively, but collectively – pitching, hitting, defense, running the bases, everything – this was our best effort.
“Blake [Ream] pitched his butt off and we were able to string some hits together.”
Washington, one of three Grafton players along with Ream and second baseman C.J. Roth who will play for Division I Longwood next spring, executed his lead-off duties exceptionally well, reaching base and scoring runs in each of his first three plate appearances. He finished 4-5 with four runs and four RBI’s.
“We knew coming in that Warhill was a good team, so I just felt like I needed to produce any way I could and that’s what I did,” Washington said. “We knew a lot of teams were probably going to be here watching us; we wanted to get the message across that we’re here.”
Ream did his job delivering that message. In addition to a strong 3-3 day at the dish that included two RBI’s and a run scored, the senior right-hander had plenty of zip on his fastball and complemented it with an effective curveball that kept Warhill hitters off balance. After battling some control issues in his first start of the season against Lafayette, Ream walked only two batters – a stat he was most proud of.
“I was really trying to get ahead [of batters] early,” said Ream. “I had some troubles in the Lafayette game trying to keeping my hands low, because I get wild sometimes when I keep them up.
“I was able to locate my fastball on the corners of the plate, which helped keep them off balance, and my curve ball was on today.”
Ream retired the side one, two three in the first two innings while Warhill starter Teddy West labored through 14 batters in the first two frames.
The Clippers scored two runs in the first on back-to-back RBI base hits from Ream and Will Thomas (2-4). Nic Kurz and Ream added consecutive RBI base knocks in the second as Grafton’s lead grew 5-0 after two innings.
W. Thomas’ sacrifice fly in the fourth and Dylan Bartells’ RBI double to the left-center gap extended the Clippers’ advantage to 7-0.
Meanwhile, Ream got better as the game progressed. Ream retired the side consecutively in the fifth and sixth innings, fanning four of the final six batters he faced.
With the score 7-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Kurz led off the frame reaching on an error before Ream singled to left field. Thomas then drove in his third run of the game with a shot down the left field line that plated Kurz to make the score 8-0.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Washington ended the game with a high fly ball down the right field line that sailed over the fence for a grand slam.
“I was just trying to get the bat on the ball and get a walk-off hit, but a homerun works too,” said Washington, smiling.
While very pleased with his team’s performance in the biggest game of the season to date, Lewellen had a humbling message for his club after the game.
“Our goal is to go 1-0 every game,” Lewellen said. “With both of us being undefeated that obviously means a little more, but we haven’t won anything yet.
“We’re 6-0 now going into Spring Break, so we’re happy about that, but at the same time it’s only one game.”
Grafton 13 Warhill 0
Warhill- 000;000 – 0 2 0
Grafton- 230;116 – 13 12 0
Grafton (6-0)- Washington 4-5 (4 runs, 4 RBI, walk-off GS), Kurz 1-3 (3 runs, RBI), Ream 3-3 (2 RBI, run), W. Thomas 2-4 (3 RBI, run), Bartells 1-4 (2B, RBI)
Warhill (5-1)- West 1-2, Klinedinst 1-2 (SB)