Moments after leaving the dog-pile and getting his turn with the Jim Lineweaver Trophy, Vinnie Pasquantino wanted to see the replay Tuesday night.
It was Pasquantino’s squeeze of Rick Spiers’ throw at first base that clinched the Charlottesville Tom Sox a 2-1 win over the Strasburg Express and gave the young organization its first-ever Valley Baseball League title.
“I’m going to go back and watch the video of the last play of the game,” Pasquantino said. “The smile on my face at first base just shows what this summer meant. For anybody that watches that video, you’re going to see what it took to get to where we are.”
That is the top of the Valley League with a sizzling 38-11 record. The final victory, in front of 2,154 rowdy fans at Charlottesville High School, was thanks to epic pitching and a clutch hit from reserve player Michael DeRenzi.
DeRenzi, who entered the game as a pinch-runner in the seventh, had the go-ahead RBI single in the eighth. He came up, with two outs and two on, after Strasburg (27-23) intentionally walked .300-hitting Pasquantino.
“I had multiple conversations with players today,” said Tom Sox coach Corey Hunt, an alumnus of both Monticello High School and University of Virginia. “And it was how I wasn’t going to coach them any different than I had during the season. They knew what was at stake. I wasn’t going to take the bat out of their hands. I wasn’t going to change what I asked them to do throughout the season.
“DeRenzi comes up and you have trust in every single one of your guys. You have to believe. And, absolutely, that’s DeRenzi’s moment to put the ball in play and see what happens.”
The grounder, which squeezed by the middle of the infield, was enough to score VBL Player of the Year Michael Wielansky from second base.
“It was awesome,” Wielansky said. “This was definitely the best summer I’ve had so far. All the memories, the relationships I’ve had, I mean I’m never going to forget it. This just capped it off, and it’s been awesome, absolutely awesome.”
Wielansky’s run was a breakout of sorts for Charlottesville, which left a combined five runners on base in the sixth and seventh innings.
Spiers worked the final 2 2/3 innings, leaving three stranded in the seventh and two in the ninth.
“It’s definitely stressful playing a game out here,” Spiers said. “It was a close ballgame that came down to the last inning. But I’ve been playing the game since I was 5-year-old, so you kind of just got to treat it like that.”
Miller School product Connor Gillispie started and gave the Tom Sox four innings, allowing one run on four hits. The right-hander struck out four and walked one.
“Not one guy got us here,” Hunt said, “and that’s the beauty of this story. We had guys come here halfway through the season, we had guys only for the first half of the season. It took a collective group of a lot of people to make this thing work.
“And for our local guys on the team, it should mean something special to them. But it should mean something special for everybody because they came here with a goal and they accomplished that tonight.”