It took Matt Gloger about 100 pitches to hold the opposition to just one run over nine innings -- but it took a timely clout by Ethan Carlyon in the eighth inning to make Gloger a winner.
Carlyon doubled to the left-center field to drive in Brady Kaplan, then scored on Tyler Richards' looping single, providing the difference in the Post 34 Leesburg Rangers' 3-1 win over Post 3 Roanoke to open the American Legion state senior baseball tournament July 29 at Fireman's Field in Purcellville.
"I think the guys were a little disappointed after our showing in the district tournament," Rangers first-year head coach Dan Gershen said. Leesburg went 2-2 in the District 16 tournament after a fifth-place finish in the 10-team league.
"They came out and they wanted it tonight... They made a statement tonight, and this is a game-changer for this club."
Gloger, a recent Heritage High School graduate signed to play for Randolph-Macon College, mixed speeds and hit spots in the complete-game win. He scattered six hits and five walks while striking out seven.
The only run Roanoke scored, a seventh-inning sacrifice fly, was unearned.
"He's been a workhorse all season, and when he has his stuff working, he's going to be unstoppable," Gershen said.
Leesburg spent the first seven innings getting plenty of hits but hardly any runs. An RBI fielder's choice by Richards was all the Rangers could muster before the eighth, despite totalling 12 base knocks on the night.
Richards had a pair of hits and two RBIs. Kaplan and Josh Martin each clubbed a couple singles. Danny Pugh doubled and singled, while Nick Fuhrmann and Mikey Pugh both doubled. Jake Skov reached base twice in four plate appearances.
But Leesburg was afflicted by three double plays and left nine men on base.
The game was kept close by solid defense behind Gloger. Martin and Fuhrmann combined to steady the left side of the infield, and Danny Pugh turned in the game's -- and possibly the season's -- most highlight-reel-worthy play with an airborne dive to backhand a fly ball in deep right-center field, ending the top of the fourth.
"One of the things we hit on before the game was to trust the defense," Gershen said. "They feed off each other. When one of their teammates makes a play like that, they want to make one too."
The Rangers (13-10) are in the state tournament solely due to being the host team, but taking the opener from the District 9 champs showed that they need not be hospitable hosts.
"Some of these guys know that tournament baseball is a completely different beast," said Gershen, noting that several of his younger players were on the same field a year ago as members of Greater Loudoun Babe Ruth's 13-15-year-old national championship team -- a competition they were in as a result of host status.
"If you come out and play your game and do the right things, it's going to go your way. Doesn't matter the stage."
With the victory, the Rangers of Post 34 move in to the winners' bracket of the double-elimination tourney. They will next face Post 361 West End, the District 11 champion, on July 30 at 7:30 p.m. That game, like the entire eight-team tournament, will take place on Fireman's Field.
Ashburn close, but no states
The Ashburn Knights of Post 2001 won four games in the double-elimination District 16 tournament, but ultimately fell to Post 290 Stafford National in the championship round. The Knights upended Stafford American, Front Royal, Leesburg and Winchester in their postseason run, falling twice to Stafford National.
Ashburn ended its season with an overall record of 16-7-1 and a second-place finish in the district's regular-season standings, two-and-a-half games behind Winchester. The Knights tallied 56 more runs than they allowed during the regular season.
The two Loudoun-based Legion squads met three times in 2014. The Knights and Rangers split their two regularly scheduled duels, with Ashburn defeating Leesburg 10-8 late in the district tourney.
Virginia American Legion tournament scoreboard
Tuesday, July 29
Post 290 Stafford National 11, Post 39 Williamsburg 2
Post 74 Albemarle 3, Post 180 Vienna 1
Post 361 West End 7, Post 217 Big Island 6
Post 34 Leesburg 3, Post 3 Roanoke 1
Wednesday, July 30
Post 39 Williamsburg vs. Post 180 Vienna, 9 a.m.
Post 217 Big Island vs. Post 3 Roanoke, 12:30 p.m.
Post 290 Stafford National vs. Post 74 Albemarle, 4 p.m.
Post 361 West End vs. Post 34 Leesburg, 7:30 p.m.