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With one loud crack of the bat in the top of the seventh inning, Lafayette junior Luc Lipcius sent a booming solo home run sailing over the right-field fence of Liberty University's baseball field that broke a 4-4 tie with Loudoun Valley during the Virginia High School League Group 3A Baseball Championships on Saturday.
The clutch home run handed the Rams their first baseball state championship in program history.
"[The pitcher] gave me a good pitch and I just swung hard and the wind carried it out," Lipcius said of his final at-bat. "I saw the right-fielder going to the fence, and he sort of stopped at the fence and I threw my hands up. I was really excited."
Lipcius' heroics at the plate mirrored those of his brother Andre, who threw a complete game for the Rams in the win and drove in a pair of runs, including the game's opening score in the top of the first inning.
In the top of the second inning, John Barton grounded out to second base but brought Jared Antle home in the process, putting Lafayette up 2-0.
The Rams continued dominating the early innings, adding another two runs to pad their lead to 4-0 in the top of the third.
After Matt Keane singled to left field, Andre Lipcius stepped to the plate and smacked an RBI double to left field. John Keane entered the game as a pinch runner for Lipcius and promptly stole third base. A wild pitch by Loudoun Valley starter Justin Ager allowed Keane to score from third.
"I thought we were going to put it away early," Lafayette coach Rick Schenk said after the game.
The momentum of the game began to shift in the bottom of the fourth as Loudoun Valley got on the board thanks to a single from Trevor McDyre that set up an RBI double from Hunter Gore.
Lafayette had its fortitude tested as a group in the bottom of the fifth inning as the Vikings began to figure out a winded Andre Lipcius.
Loudoun Valley's Kyle Bowles started the bottom of the fifth with a single to right field, which was followed by Sam Urban getting hit by a pitch. Andre Lipcius seemed to regain his composure in the middle of the inning, recording back-to-back outs.
Gore changed the entire feel of the game after teeing up an Andre Lipcius pitch and delivering a double to right-center field that brought in two runs, cutting Lafayette's lead to one run. On the next at-bat, Andrew Lohr singled to left and drove in the game-tying run.
The sudden shift in momentum nearly prompted Schenk to make a pitching change and pull Andre Lipcius from the mound. The gutty pitcher had different plans, however.
"I was worried about my pitcher and I was getting ready to pull him," Schenk said about his mindset after watching a three-run lead evaporate. "[Andre] said 'Coach, I'm holding back. I can get it.' And he did. He came through."
He was right.
Lipcius got out of the jam by striking out Matt Eberhart, who fouled off a bunt with two strikes – an automatic out.
A scoreless sixth inning by both teams set the stage for the dramatic finish in the seventh inning. Braydon Venus was first to bat for the Rams in the top of the seventh, sending a slow grounder to third base for an easy first out. Next came Keane, who sent a popup to center field for the second out of the inning.
With two outs and the Rams in dire need of a spark, Luc Lipcius delivered. Facing a 2-1 count, Luc Lipcius made solid contact with a pitch from Lohr, who entered as a relief pitcher for the Vikings in the fourth inning. The ball popped off the bat and quickly trailed toward right field, eventually clearing the fence and the bullpen immediately behind it.
The Rams bench mobbed Luc Lipcius at home plate and celebrated their new lead in the state championship game.
Loudoun Valley made one final charge at the Rams in the bottom of the seventh inning after McDyre doubled down the right field line, which prompted Schenk to intentionally walk Gore to set up an easier out.
The final play of the game came when Lohr barely caught a piece of an Andre Lipcius pitch, causing it to trickle just in front of home plate. Keane rushed out to scoop the ball up and threw it to first base for the game's final out.
For the first time in Lafayette baseball history, the Rams (18-6-1) were state champions.
"It is unbelievable," Schenk said about the feeling of being a state champion. "Our program is growing and we're going to be strong again next year."
Lafayette: 112;000;1 – 5 9 1
Loudoun Valley: 000;130;0 – 4 9 0
WP: Andre Lipcius
LP: Andrew Lohr
Lafayette: Matt Keane (2-4, 2 RBIs), Andre Lipcius (3-4, 2 RBIs), Luc Lipcius (1-4, RBI, HR)
Loudoun Valley: Hunter Gore (3-3, 3 RBIs), Andrew Lohr (1-4, RBI)