Valley Baseball Finishes Regular Season 13-6, Prepped for Postseason
Sophomore Sam Hutchinson and the Valley Regional baseball squad grabbed wins against Old Saybrook and Portland last week. Hutchinson knocked in a run agaisnt the Rams on May 19. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Sophomore Mason Erwin drove in a run in the Warriors’ 13-0 victory over Portland on May 22. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Senior Sam Helsel and the Warriors finished the regular season at 13-6 after coming away with a 2-2 split on last week’s slate. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
The Valley baseball squad had a jam-packed slate this week with four games to close out the regular season. The Warriors earned a split in their contests and moved to 13-6 on the year. Head Coach Brian Drinkard's squad had plenty to feel good about after last week's action as they headed into the postseason.
A 13-6 record is a pretty impressive mark, but it's especially impressive considering a nearly two-year layoff between playing games. The Warriors put together a solid run so far, but Coach Drinkard doesn't want to put any undue expectations on his team.
"I don't really have expectations. It's baseball. I'm confident that we can win games," Drinkard said. "We need to go out, be sharp, and hit the baseball. As long as we do that, we have a chance to win. The tough part comes if we stumble at all."
The Warriors had a bit of a slow start on the week after taking an 8-4 home loss against Coginchaug. Valley took the early one-run lead, but they gave up the lead in the third inning. By the fifth inning, the Warriors trailed 6-1, but then they managed a bit of a rally in the sixth inning to cut it to 6-4. The Blue Devils tacked on two more runs for the 8-4 final. Scott Connell came off the bench and hit an RBI-single to spark Valley's attempted comeback. Kyle Metz supplied two base hits, as did Ryan Ellison.
Coach Drinkard thought that Valley had a couple of chances to get ahead, but ultimately just couldn't get over the hump against Coginchaug.
"We had our opportunities. We had a lead early in the game, but we had a bad inning, and that let them get the lead back," Drinkard said. "Once they had the lead back, it was tough for us from there. We kept battling against a really tough team, but you can't let a team like that back in and expect the game to go in your favor."
Two days later, the Warriors picked up a 4-1 road win against Old Saybrook. Ellison earned the win from the mound for Valley, and Metz went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI. Sam Hutchinson and Andrew Salbinski both added RBI in the victory.
Coach Drinkard thought that the Rams were a much better team than their record indicated. Old Saybrook played the Warriors tough, but Valley ultimately claimed the win.
"They have to be the best five-win team in the state. There's a lot of talent on that team. Looking at their record, their losses have all come in pretty close games. Sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way. They pitch well, field well, and swing the bat well," Drinkard said. "Ryan pitched one of his best games of the year. He had his curveball working and he was mixing his pitches well."
The next day, Valley took a narrow 8-7 road loss against East Hampton. The Warriors fell behind 5-0 early in the game, but came back with a pair of runs in the fourth inning to make it 5-2. The Bellringers extended their lead to 8-2 in the bottom of the frame. Valley chipped away to cut it to 8-7, and left the game-tying runner on the bases. Ellison knocked two hits and drove in a pair of runs in the loss. Mason Erwin also added a pair of hits and a pair of RBI.
Coach Drinkard appreciated that his squad battled, but it was defensive inconsistency that really put the Warriors on the back foot against East Hampton.
"We came out really flat and got behind 5-0. We ended up scoring two in the fourth to make it 5-2, but we had another rough inning in the field and gave them three more. After that we scored in the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh. We even had a runner on second in the seventh, but we were unable to get the run across," said Drinkard. "In our post-game wrap up we talked about some of the positives, too. It took a while to get it going, and it ended up taking a little bit too long. It was encouraging to see them battle back in a game that could have gotten out of hand, though."
On May 22, the Warriors grabbed a decisive 13-0 win at home over Portland in five innings. Valley was able to get a few players into the game that don't get a ton of opportunities on the diamond. Ryan Grace was able to grab an RBI single, and Michael Brooks also drove in a run. Henry Breckenfield picked up the win on the bump for Valley. Coach Drinkard knew that the win against Portland was important in terms of potential matchups in the state tournament.
"It's a game we needed to win. We could have easily let down in that spot, but we didn't," Drinkard said. "It didn't effect Shorelines, since we are locked into that No. 3 spot. The win may have made it so that we get to keep a home game in the states, so that is a good thing."
As the regular season came to a close, Coach Drinkard reflected on the joy his players have been able to experience this year out on the field. After last year, Coach Drinkard and the Warriors aren't taking anything for granted.
"The high school baseball season is a bit of grind when you get toward the end of the season. I fully expect the guys to come out and play in the first round of the Shorelines. I think we had some young talented kids come into the program and learn from the seniors," said Drinkard. "I'm proud of those seniors being able to lead whether they were on the field or not. They stayed positive and encouraging for the team. I feel like everyone in the dugout is there for the team and isn't there just for themselves. It's been fun to be around and watch every day whether we win or lose. These guys play good baseball and the team is fun to be around."