By Bill Meade
STUARTS DRAFT — The Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks gave starting pitcher Drew Dobbins a proper send-off Thursday night, defeating the Bridgewater Reds 9-7 in an exciting first game of the Rockingham County Baseball League playoffs at the Diamond Club.
Dobbins, who leaves Friday for a new job in Texas, was moved up in the series pitching rotation to have one more chance to help the D’backs take the next step toward winning the elusive RCBL crown.
Although Dobbins didn’t figure in the final decision, he did pitch well enough to put the Draft in front before the Reds made a late-inning comeback.
The Waynesboro High School grad pitched five shutout innings out of the gate, keeping the Reds’ hitters off-balance with a variety of off-speed pitches and his fastball.
The Reds, trailing 6-0 entering the sixth, finally roughed up Dobbins a bit with a lead-off double by Josh Wright, a base hit by Tyler Hoffman and two-run base hit by Craig Martin.
Bridgewater, who eliminated reguar-season champion Clover Hill two nights earlier, kept the pressure on in the top of the seventh, scoring two more runs off reliever Donovan Huffer after a walk, base hit and two-run double by Daniel Heatwole.
The D’backs used the long ball to stake their early lead.
Huffer hit a solo shot in the second which caromed off the top of the fence and Jay Thompson drove in the second run in the third with a sacrifice fly.
In the bottom of the fourth, Brandon Clark went deep off of Reds’ starter Nick Corbin.
The big blow came in the bottom of the fifth when catcher Wes Dimitt, who had hit a home run on Tuesday, socked a three-run shot. Dimitt’s homer was his fifth of the RCBL playoffs.
Clark drove in the D’backs’ seventh run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh, but the Reds tied the score in the top of the eighth as Huffer walked the first three Reds.
Kevin Bocock brought in two runs with a hit and the tying run came in when Thompson, who had relieved Huffer, plunked Chad Rhodes with a pitch with the bases juiced with Reds.
But with game one hanging in the balance, Stuarts Draft struck the winning blow by virtue of the long ball again in the bottom of the eighth.
With one out, Elliott Erkel lifted a base hit into left and after a ground out, leadoff batter Corbin Lucas drove a line drive over the right-field fence.
“I was looking for a slider, but I hit an inside fastball,” Lucas said. “The ball was traveling pretty well tonight.”
The Reds got the potential tying run to the plate after Ryan McAlister doubled to left with two outs, but Thompson retired Bocock on a grounder to first and recorded the win in his two innings of relief.
The Diamondbacks have now connected on 14 home runs in their seven playoff games to date.
The series resumes tonight at Wayland Field in Bridgewater weather permitting.