In a disappointing trio of games, Rappahannock County High School’s varsity baseball team lost last Thursday to Manassas Park, Friday to Clarke County and again to Manassas Park in the first District playoff on Monday.
Of the 16-1 loss on Thursday, coach Donald O’Meara said: “It was a tough outing. The Cougar bats caught fire, and we struggled to score.”
Brandon Walker was on the mound to start, and Taylor Yowell came in to relieve. The Panthers gave up numerous extra bases on errors. Stephen Johnston scored the Panthers’ only run.
Friday was Senior Night, and the team recognized Taylor Yowell, Nick Carter, Evan Espinola and Chris Garcia. O’Meara decided to bat the seniors in order from 2 to 5.
“We were ready to go, then some bad luck struck,” O’Meara said. “The first play of the game, junior Matt Fletcher dove into first trying to get an out on a close play and dislocated his shoulder. After he left in an ambulance, we tried to regroup.” Rapp scored five runs in its final home game, but gave up 15.
“Evan Espinola did a great job on the mound,” O’Meara said. “Taylor Yowell and Brandon Walker spent some good time there as well. We almost extended the game to seven innings when Stephen Johnston and Nathan Tucker scored on a single from Nick Carter before it turned into a little league home-run on errors.” The other two Panther runs came from Stephen Johnston on a RBI double from Espinola who later scored.
“I was very proud of our guys, with the bad luck injury and a few errors, we never gave up and kept plugging away,” O’Meara said.
The first District playoff game took the team to Manassas Park. Rapp started strong but could not gain a lead. The Panthers lost 11-0.
Senior Taylor Yowell offered some perspective. “Chris Garcia was the starting pitcher, but the Cougars scored two in the first inning. I came in after Chris did his nine. At that point it was two outs, then we broke down in errors. MP scored six on us in the bottom of the second before Brandon Walker came in to pitch. They managed to hit off him pretty well.”
Evan Espinola earned the only Rapp hit before he came in to pitch.
The Panthers had only nine players who could play. John Mills and Matt Fletcher were on the DL, and their absence was apparent. In the merry-go-round of putting players on the field, Grayson Love and Stephen Johnston, both freshmen, saw some significant defensive time.
“They’re inexperienced, but they did well for us,” teammate Taylor Yowell said.
In the final game of the season, Rapp cut the number of errors and even threw out two Cougars who attempted to steal second base. It just wasn’t enough to earn the win.
“The errors we got were costly, but everyone kept their head up for this last game,” Yowell commented. For the senior pitcher who is headed to Liberty University in the fall, and for the three other graduating athletes, “the last game can be strange for a player. It’s hard to think of not being able to play at the high school level anymore.”
O’Meara was unavailable for comment after the final game. His wife was giving birth to their second child, a son (Donald O’Meara III). Perhaps he has a Panther baseball uniform in his future.
The Rapp varsity baseball team ended the season with a 5-13 record.