WINCHESTER — Now that’s the type of history a team wants to make.
Two days after surrendering its most runs in a game since 2009, the Shenandoah University baseball won its fourth straight game since that defeat to capture its first regional title since 2019 and fourth overall.
The third-ranked Hornets defeated No. 10 Christopher Newport University twice on Sunday at the NCAA Division III Winchester Regional at Bridgeforth Stadium to earn their first Super Regional berth since 2019. SU defeated the Captains 14-5 in the opener, then beat CNU 5-3 in the winner-takes-all championship game before a crowd of 417 people to capture the regional title and set a program record for wins in a season with 42.
After losing 22-9 to The College of New Jersey in Friday’s opening game to move within one defeat of seeing their season end, the Hornets won twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday. SU beat Immaculata 11-9 in Saturday’s first game and TCNJ 8-1 in Saturday’s second game to make the championship round against CNU.
On Sunday, SU’s typically stout offense and defense showed up repeatedly, and two excellent starts from players who had primarily competed for the school’s development squad this year headlined the Hornets’ pitching.
In Game 2, senior Torrey Savoia started and pitched six innings, allowing two runs (both earned), four hits and three walks while striking out four batters. He had only pitched 5.2 innings for the varsity team during his career, all this year.
“To come back the way these guys did and win four in a row against good teams ... we’ll remember [this] for a long time,” said SU head coach Kevin Anderson about a half hour after SU’s players rushed the field and posed for various pictures. “The players were determined all year. We just have so many high-character men. They put the team first. This group is very, very special.”
The 42-8 Hornets will travel to play sixth-ranked and Old Dominion Athletic Conference rival Lynchburg in the best-of-3 Super Regional on Friday and Saturday after an official NCAA announcement. Game 1 is at noon on Friday. The second game will be at 11 a.m. on Saturday and a potential Game 3 will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday. SU is 1-3 this year against Lynchburg (41-7), the ODAC regular season and tournament champions.
Long before SU could think about sinking the Captains, the Hornets had to take a long look at themselves after Friday’s shocking defeat. The 2009 squad forged the path that turned the Hornets into a national power, but when they gave up 25 runs to Methodist, it was in a regular-season game, not in an NCAA Tournament opener.
Anderson felt he didn’t have his team ready to play against The College of New Jersey, which entered the postseason with a record of 19-21.
“We were humiliated and embarrassed,” Anderson said.
“We had a meeting that night, and it was a pretty intense meeting,” said SU senior center fielder and Regional Most Outstanding Player Kooper Anderson, Kevin’s son. “It just lit a fire in us. It was very emotional. We were putting out our plans of what we’re going to do, what we need to do, speaking it into action, and we got it done.”
The Hornets needed to go undefeated the rest of the tournament, and SU did just that.
The Hornets’ offense was relentless throughout the regional, reaching base at least 20 times in every game except Game 2 against CNU and recording double-digit hits in every game. They stole 14 bases in the last four games and laid down three sacrifice bunts in the 5-3 clincher.
“I really think that when we hit the hanging breaking ball and don’t chase the one in the dirt, that’s the key,” Kooper said. “A lot of guys in the lineup are really good hitters and they get a lot of off-speed pitches. When we’re aggressive early in the count and we really drive the ball to the opposite field and then pull it with our hands, we’re a phenomenal batting lineup.”
SU didn’t waste much time applying pressure on CNU (33-11) in either of Sunday’s games. In Game 1, the Hornets scored once in the first, five runs in the fourth and twice in the fifth for an 8-0 lead (SU was the visiting team), then tacked on six more runs in the seventh to make it 14-5. In Game 2 the Hornets scored twice in the first, once in the fourth and twice in the fifth for a 5-1 lead.
In Game 2, SU’s two runs in the bottom of the first inning put it up 2-1, with the Hornets capitalizing on an error.
After singles by Colby Martin (3 for 4, two runs) and Gavin Horning (1 for 3, two runs, hit by pitch) put runners on first and third, Captains pitcher Dylan Weber caught Horning heading toward second and threw behind him to first baseman Justin Bowers.
But Bowers threw low and to the left of the bag at second, which allowed Horning to reach second safely and allowed Martin to score. Pearce Bucher followed by chopping an RBI single up the middle to score Horning and make it 2-1 SU.
Catcher Brody Pickette had an RBI single in the third inning to make it 3-1 and Ryan Clawson drove in two runs to make it 5-1 SU in the fifth with a double that bounced against the fence in left-center.
Down 5-2, CNU threatened in the eighth inning. Brian Ferreira gave up back-to-back walks with one out and Parker Farrington came in.
Kyle Lisa made a diving stop at second base and threw to first just in time to get Alec Reilly for the second out. SU’s defense then ended the inning in crucial fashion one batter later.
Jake Benedict grounded a single to left that scored catcher Zach Dzarnowski to make it 5-3, and Bowers motored around third in hopes of adding another run. But Haden Madagan gunned him down in plenty of time with a one-hop bullet throw to Pickette, who applied the tag on Bowers to end the inning.
“That was a 95 mile-per-hour throw to the plate,” Kevin Anderson said.
In the ninth, Farrington gave up a leadoff single. But he got a grounder to the first baseman Bucher, a foul pop to Bucher, and a fly out to center to Anderson to end it. On Saturday, Farrington threw 60 pitches over four innings to close out the win against TCNJ.
“He pitched on guts [Sunday],” Kevin Anderson said.
Farrington picked up his third save of the season in Game 2 against CNU, and SU’s unlikely starter got his first career win.
Savoia said he’s viewed playing for the Hornets’ developmental team throughout much of his career as a positive thing, because it’s allowed him to compete and grow as a pitcher. He believes he’s pitched at least 30 innings for the developmental team this year, a number that only four Hornets have thrown for the varsity campaign.
In short, he was prepared to give SU some significant innings after Kevin Anderson flipped him a ball and informed him after the Game 1 win that he would be starting Game 2. Savoia pitched an inning against TCNJ on Friday.
“At first I was nervous,” Savoia said. “But when I sat back I realized that if I had the ball, that I was the man for the job, and I was going to go out there and give my best effort. I was glad to help out and get us to where we got.”
Savoia throws a fastball, changeup and slider.
“I had a lot of trouble with the slider in the bullpen warming up, and I realized I was going to have to rely on the fastball and changeup in-game,” Savoia said. “Fortunately I was able to get the slider working in-game as much as I could.”
Both Andersons couldn’t have been happier for Savoia after the game. Kooper is Savoia’s roommate.
“I had all the faith in the world in him,” Kooper said. “When I saw that was he starting, I was so pumped up because I knew he was going to get it done. He’s been on the developmental [team] for four years and has worked his butt off for four years, and he finally got his chance.”
“Torrey Savoia has improved as much as anybody in our program,” Kevin Anderson said. “And that’s because of the opportunities he got on developmental through the years. He really started throwing well this year.”
At the tournament’s conclusion, it was announced that Kooper Anderson was the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. He went 2 for 3 with a stolen base in Game 2 after going 3 for 5 with two runs and five RBIs in Game 1.
“I just really tried to shorten up my swing today,” Kooper said. “I think I overswing a lot, and when the velo gets a little faster I try to take a longer swing, and in reality, that’s the complete opposite thing you should do. So I shortened up my swing and I was seeing [the ball] well.”
Kooper was seeing the ball a little better on defense as well on Sunday. He helped Savoia by running forward to make a diving catch for the third out of the fifth and strand a runner at third to keep it 3-1 SU. He jumped up screaming after the play.
“I’ve been struggling on some balls in front of me, getting really bad reads,” Kooper said. “That was obviously a sigh of relief. I was kind of playing them shallow all day today because of the left-to-right wind. I knew off the bat I had a chance to catch it, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure. I just decided to lay out, full extended, and it went in my glove.”
Kevin Anderson said his son definitely deserved Most Outstanding Player.
“I’ve been way too hard on him,” Kevin said. “I’ve been so worried about nepotism that I’ve gone the other way.
“He’s earned [what he’s got]. He hasn’t been given anything. Sometimes his swing gets a little long. But a lot of times he’s stepped up and got big for us, and on championship day he stepped up and got big.”
In Game 1 on Sunday, SU was also led by Horning (2 for 3 with a double, two walks and three RBIs), Martin (4 for 5 with a double, walk, two runs and two RBIs), Lisa (2 for 4 with a double and three runs) and Frankie Ritter, Madagan and Clawson (two runs each). Matt House earned the save by pitching four innings of shutout relief, allowing three hits, one walk and striking out two batters.
CNU starter Jack Anderson struggled with his control. He left after 22 pitches, walking the first four batters and throwing two wild pitches in that time. Ritter scored on the second wild pitch to make it 1-0.
The Hornets took command in the top of the fourth inning with five runs. Singles by Madagan and Lisa put runners on first and third with one out, then Anderson singled to make it 2-0.
With two outs, Martin singled to load the bases. Reliever Brenden Cassedy (five innings, seven runs, three earned, eight hits, one walk, two strikeouts) almost got out of the jam at that point when Horning popped a ball behind the plate on a 1-2 pitch, but Dzarnowski appeared to have trouble tracking the ball in the sun, and it dropped for a foul ball.
Horning would then work Cassedy for a walk, screaming after the final pitch that wound up bringing in Lisa for a 3-0 lead. Cassedy almost got out of the inning again when he got Bucher to ground a ball to shortstop Josh Reinhold. But second baseman Justin Liakos dropped the throw at second as Anderson crossed the plate to make it 4-0. Tyler Blittersdorf then lined a single up the middle that brought in two runs to make it 6-0.
In the fifth inning, Anderson followed an error at third on a grounder and a Lisa double with a two-run single that made it 8-0.
In the bottom of the fifth, SU starting pitcher Michael Meyers, a freshman, ran out of gas after starting the game and pitching four shutout innings, allowing three hits and no walks in that time. Meyers gave up three walks and a hit to cut SU’s lead to 8-1, struck out the next two batters, but then walked the next two to make it 8-3.
Kevin Anderson then came in to remove Meyers, who walked to the Hornets dugout to a standing ovation. Before Sunday, Meyers had only pitched 6.2 innings for SU’s varsity team. Reliever Tristan Everett then gave SU fans more reason to cheer, getting Jake Benedict to fly out to center to keep the score 8-3.
Kevin Anderson said Meyers was injured in the fall, and he wouldn’t have been able to build his arm strength up for the regional tournament without the developmental program. Anderson said SU almost decided to make this a medical redshirt year for Meyers.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, lefty Sam Benedict followed a leadoff walk with a two-run home run over the right-field wall, his first home run of the year, to cut SU’s lead to 8-5.
House then came in for Everett and retired the next three batters in order to start his strong finish. House gave up six earned runs in 1.1 innings on Friday against TCNJ.
“He did a good job keeping some really good hitters off balance,” Kevin Anderson said.
SU exploded for six runs in the top of the seventh inning for a 14-5 lead. After Dylan Blazer walked the first three batters to start the inning, he was lifted for David Gingras, a Loudoun Valley graduate.
Anderson greeted him with a line-drive single to left that scored two runs. After a Ritter bunt single, Martin and Horning followed with two-run doubles to make it 14-5.
Other SU players who made the All-Regional team besides Anderson were Martin, Clawson, Lisa, Savoia and Farrington.
Welcome to the discussion.
Comments are reviewed by moderators so they may not immediately appear. We appreciate your patience.