Bulldogs send Plank out a winner
STONE BRIDGE 9, MARSHALL 4
Stone Bridge captain Tanner Karafa was covered in dirt and his coach, Sam Plank, was soaked with Gatorade, but neither seemed to mind.
The Bulldogs wanted to relish the moment following their 9-4 victory over Marshall in the Virginia 5A baseball title game Saturday at Robinson.
The pair embraced in the infield to celebrate the school’s first baseball title. “We just shared a special moment,” Karafa said. “Almost every day in the locker room, during every postseason practice, we talked about how bad we wanted this.”
Plank’s impending departure to Riverside High was not talked about openly during the team’s tournament run. But the players knew how they wanted Plank to finish his 15-year run as the school’s first and only baseball coach. Plank’s line to them was simple: He would remain their coach until the final pitch. And what a final pitch it was. A day after Brett Kreyer advanced the Bulldogs (23-5) to the final with a one-hitter, junior David Mocabee delivered another complete game. He surrendered a two-run homerun to Will Brooke in the second inning, but gave up just two more runs the rest of the way. One of those came on Brooke’s second homer of the day.
“[Mocabee] made a couple bad pitches, but you know what, he refocused and that’s what tough kids do,” Plank said. “He just battled the whole game. He wouldn’t letme take him out.”
Meanwhile, the Stone Bridge offense relied on depth, as it has all year. Mocabee got things started with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first inning and later added another RBI. Michael Kuzbel led the team with three RBI, including two in the bottom of the sixth that turned a 4-3 lead into a 6-3 advantage.
Coach Aaron Tarr said the Statesmen (21-7) had given all it had the previous night to come back against Hickory. The loss ends the Marshall career of 5A North region player of the year Mitch Blackstone, who went 3 for 4. Tarr called him “the best high school baseball player I’ve ever been around.”
After the final out, the Bulldogs piled up between second and third base. One of Plank’s assistants turned to the head coach and said, “Are you going to go out there with them?”
“No,” Plank responded, “this is their moment.”