By DAN CLENDANIEL
Special to the Potomac News & Manassas Journal Messenger
WOODBRIDGE — Hylton’s Mike Crutchman waited a long time for his opportunity to play and last night made the most of it.
The Bulldogs were down to their last strike in the seventh inning against Stonewall Jackson when Crutchman hit a soft line drive single into left field to score Jerome Quinata from second base.
Crutchman’s hit tied the game at 1-1 and Hylton (11-2) went on to score an unearned run in the eighth inning to defeat the Raiders, 2-1, on Thursday.
Crutchman and Bulldogs’ coach John Colantuoni both know how far the senior outfielder had to come to hit that single.
“We cut him when he was a freshman,” remembered Colantuoni. “He came back as a sophomore and made the JV team. Last year, he was our back-up catcher and then we moved him to the outfield. He’s just worked hard.”
With Hylton trailing 1-0 to Stonewall, Brian Ware-Colantuoni opened the seventh inning with a double. But it appeared that his pinch-runnner, Quinata, would be stranded at second base when Raider pitcher Erik Nguyen quickly retired the next two Bulldog batters and got two quick strikes on Crutchman.
Crutchman’s clean single easily scored Quinata.
In the bottom of the eighth, Brian Antolick led off for Hylton with a single and was bunted to second by Jorge Laboy.
With two outs, Perry Kukura’s grounder slipped under the glove of Raider third baseman Andrew Rust, and Antolick scooted home with the tying run for the Bulldogs.
The loss was a heartbreaker for Raider starter Nguyen, who surrendered five hits over seven-plus innings.
“He’s battled his butt off for the last three, four games,” said Stonewall coach Andy Devitt.
Hylton starting pitcher Laboy matched Nguyen pitch-for-pitch until the Raiders scratched a run across with the help of three Bulldog errors in the fifth inning. Laboy went the distance for Hylton, firing a two-hitter to improve his record to 4-0.
“I knew they were swinging at the first pitch,” said Laboy, “so I started changing my motion, going to sliders and sidearm fastballs.”
Laboy has now yielded just one earned run in his last 27 innings. Stonewall had beaten Hylton last week during the Eddie Hope Tournament and was bidding for their sixth win after winning just one game a year ago.
“I told the team that we are two pitches away from being .500,” said Devitt of his 5-9 Raiders. “This game and one bad pitch against Potomac [that went for a home run in a 4-2 loss].”