Anyone seeking a glimpse into the future of Liberty University’s baseball team needed only to watch Loudoun Valley’s Jack DeGroat and Sam Urban on Friday evening.
They were unstoppable, relentless and lights-out.
Both LU commits, playing for the second straight year in the state final four at Liberty Baseball Stadium, provided head-shaking highlights as the Vikings from Purcellville pillaged Rustburg, 6-0, in the Virginia High School League Group 3A state semifinals.
DeGroat stymied the Red Devils, holding them to just two hits and striking out a career-high 17 in the complete-game effort. His fastball consistently hit in the 90s and his curveball kept Rustburg (15-9) off balance throughout the evening.
“I felt good pre-game, so I knew I would be able to beat them with my fastball today,” DeGroat said. “Once I got my curveball down in the third or fourth inning, I felt really good and I was confident that we’d win.”
Urban, the centerfielder who performed well enough during Loudoun Valley’s run to the 2014 3A state title in Lynchburg to garner looks from Liberty, went 2 for 3 with three RBIs. The lefty blasted a two-run single to right as part of a four-run Vikings fourth inning and then doubled in another run in the sixth, taking a pitch down the left-field line.
“There’s something about the playoffs for sure because I always hit better in the playoffs,” Urban said. “This is definitely the nicest field I’ve ever played on, so the fact that I’m coming here next year makes it all that more exciting.”
Rustburg starter Hunter Campbell (5-2, 1 save) lasted just 3 2/3 innings and allowed five runs (zero earned). He threw 70 pitches, but was plagued by walks and a big Loudoun Valley fourth.
Campbell finished with two complete games this postseason. “It wasn’t just me,” he said of the playoff push. “It was a whole team effort. Things started clicking at the right time. … We’ll have motivation for next year.”
Until the seventh, when pinch-hitter Garvis Tuggle hit a towering pop fly that dropped beyond second base, Rustburg managed just one hit off DeGroat. That one came in the third, when sophomore Daegan Phillips beat out an infield dribbler to third. Tuggle sprinted to second on his popup, one of just a handful of times the Red Devils advanced a runner into scoring position.
Carson Stanley threw the final 2 1/3 innings for Rustburg, yielding one run on two hits. Loudoun Valley’s Kurtis Meyer went 3 for 3 with an RBI. Kyle Bowles drove in two runs.
DeGroat threw 110 pitches in his final high school start to put Loudoun Valley in the 3A championship, where it faces Lafayette today at 1 p.m.
Rustburg’s Jacob Knight nearly cut into DeGroat’s impressive performance when he corked a pitch down the line in right field. It sliced foul, though, representing Rustburg’s only legitimate chance at scoring a run.
“We battled, fought to the end,” Knight said, “and just came up short.”
Group 3A State Semifinals
Loudoun Valley 6, Rustburg 0
Rustburg 000 000 0 — 0 2 2
Loudoun 001 401 x — 6 7 0
WP: Jack DeGroat. LP: Hunter Campbell (5-2).
Highlights: LV — DeGroat 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 17 Ks; Sam Urban 2-3, 2B, 3 RBIs; Kyle Bowles 0-3, 2 RBIs; Kurtis Meyer 3-3, RBI. Rustburg Daegan Phillips 1-2, Garvis Tuggle 1-1, 2B; Campbell 3 2/3 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 1 K; Carson Stanley 2 1/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER.
Records: Rustburg 15-9. Loudoun Valley 23-2.
Note: Loudoun Valley plays Lafayette in Group 3A state championship Saturday at 1 p.m. at Liberty University.