While not trying to test fate, Chad Sarvis felt he had already read this book before.
His Aynor baseball team cruised through the always tough Region VIII-AA, and navigated past several game opponents to claim the District VIII-AA title.
“It’s very much like 2006,” Sarvis quietly said at the time, hoping not to jinx his young team. “All the similarities are there.”
The Blue Jackets ensured things came full circle a decade later for the program on Friday night, all the while vanquishing a nemesis responsible for some of their most bitter defeats.
After taking it on the chin in a loss to Bishop England in the first game of its Lower State final doubleheader, Ridge Richardson ensured Aynor’s season would not end on its home field.
The senior pitcher stymied the Bishops en route to a one-hitter, leading the Blue Jackets to a 4-1 victory and the Lower State AA baseball crown.
“I tip my hat to him,”Sarvis said. “Late there in the game, his pitch count was up, you know I came up to him and asked him, ‘How do you feel?’
“(Richardson) said ‘Coach. I want it, I want to finish it, I want to finish it.’”
Richardson wound up with eight strikeouts, while issuing four walks. The hurler’s sole mistake came in the game’s opening frame, misfiring on a routine throw to first that allowed Bishop England to score its only run of the game.
When it does (sink in), it’s going to feel really good.
Aynor senior catcher Ian Prosser following the Blue Jackets’ win, earning them the Lower State AA baseball title
For the better part of the two games, Aynor struggled with the Bishops’ pitching staff – particularly freshman Geoffrey Gilbert. But one of Sarvis’ key talking points is that “even though they’re not always good, but they’re good when they need to be.”
Not only were the Blue Jackets good when necessary, uncharacteristic mistakes by Bishop England helped their cause.
Down 1-0 in the third, a routine fly ball to Bishops left fielder Paul Provost was bobbled and dropped. Later in the inning, Bishop England would offer up another gift, this time courtesy of shortstop Chris Dengler, who errant throw to first allowed a pair of Aynor runners to score.
The Bishops would freely yield another two runs in the fifth, giving the Blue Jackets a 4-1 lead. For Ridge Richardson, a three-run cushion was more than enough.
“I was feeling pretty good out there,” the Aynor pitcher said. “I was tired, but I had to push through it. (In the seventh inning) my teammates were telling me I am a few outs from winning it, and to keep doing what I was doing.”
Whether it be by coincidence or a stroke of luck, it was Richardson who corralled a chopper by Bishop England’s Leo Albano, applying the tag for the game’s final out.
Caught in the moment players and coaches rushed on the field to take part in a celebratory dogpile, followed by high fives and a bevy of photos with parents and supporters. For senior catcher Ian Prosser, the moment had not exactly sunk in.
“When it does (sink in), it’s going to feel really good,” he said.
It is Aynor’s first trip to the state championship series since 2006, defeating Bishop England for the right to do so – just as it did Friday night. The Blue Jackets will host the series’ opening game against Strom Thurmond on Monday.
▪ Game 1 – Bishop England 14, Aynor 6
▪ W: Edward Bolchoz L: Walt Richardson Top hitters: BE: Gunnar Finneseth 3-for-5, RBI; Edward Bolchoz 2-for-4. AYN: Ridge Richardson 1-for-4, HR, 2 RBI; Ian Prosser 1-for-4, HR, 3 RBI.
▪ Game 2 – Aynor 4, Bishop England 1
▪ W: Ridge Richardson L: Edward Bolchoz Top hitters: AYN: Seth Hucks 1-for-4, 2 R; Caleb Nobles 1-for-4.
▪ Records: Aynor 21-5; Bishop England 20-11.