The squad, representing Pool A, downed Virginia’s Pool B unit, 5-4, Tuesday afternoon in thrilling fashion to advance to the regional championship. ESMA takes on South Carolina today at 11 a.m. with a trip to Michigan for the national championship on the line.
With a runner on first and two outs in the final inning, things looked bleak for ESMA, as it trailed, 4-3. But Payden Simmons scored when No. 9 hitter Eric Sonafrank’s fly ball was missed by a diving fielder and ESMA tied the game. The next batter, Nick Smith, hopped a ball over an outfielder’s head and Sonafrank — who head coach Randy Sheets said is, “...not blessed with the most speed on the team.” — slid head first into home for the win.
“We showed a whole lot of heart today and no quit,” Sheets said. “That’s what we’re about.”
For the second straight day, ESMA had trouble hitting the ball. It fell behind 3-0 after three innings, mustering one hit in the process. That all changed in the fourth, when ESMA loaded the bases. When Simmons’ suicide squeeze scored a run, Sheets noticed a chink in the armor of Virginia.
“We got them rattled a little bit,” Sheets said. So, he called for another bunt, one that resulted in another run to get ESMA back in the game.
Because the teams involved in the tournament did not know how long to book their rooms, most teams only reserved rooms until Tuesday. A win today and ESMA players, coaches and parents will be booking rooms in Michigan for this weekend.