Saints make believers out of TCIS

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Coming into the TCIS baseball season-ending tournament last weekend, fifth-seeded Nansemond-Suffolk Academy could, at best, be described as a dark horse contender. Armed with a 4-4 TCIS record, the Saints had fallen to Catholic, Cape Henry, Greenbrier Christian (GC) and Norfolk Academy (NA), all of whom were ranked above them in the tournament.

But as the season culminated in one of the biggest Cinderella stories in TCIS history, the Saints went from a dark horse to a white, sterling stallion.


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They started things off by riding the pitching arm of Adam Keeling to a win over NA, avenging a 2-1 loss to the Bulldogs earlier in the season. Not that the win necessarily put the Saints in a good position; now they had to take on the GC Gators, who were seeded second in the state and had stomped the Saints the week before (and scored a 10-2 victory over NSA in last year’s semifinals, a season in which the Gators eventually won the tournament). Not only that, but they had to do it at GC.

The Gators charged to a 2-1 lead in the first, but Keeling doubled in Jack Wright, Todd Harrell and Robert Crumpler in the fourth to go up 6-2, and Jason Rock held the Gators to a single run in the remaining innings in a complete-game, 8-3 victory.

By now, the Saints and their classmates were truly starting to believe that a miracle could occur. On the day of every game, the Saints have a tradition of wearing neckties to school. On Friday morning, Harrell walked into class wearing the sign of at least one more game.

&uot;Everybody was like, ‘Wow, you beat GC?’&uot; Harrell said. &uot;I pretty much guaranteed that we’d win the tournament, but they didn’t all believe me.&uot;

Perhaps their friends had reason. Strapped by injuries, the Saints could only field 10 players for Friday’s title game against Catholic. Robert Crumpler, who had compiled a regular season pitching record of 3-2, was starting on the mound.

But the Saints had once ace up their sleeve: revenge. On April 17, the Crusaders had scored all of their runs in the top of the seventh inning to embarrass the Saints on the NSA field, 9-6.

Keeling’s strategy was simple.

&uot;Our goal is to win today, and not worry about tomorrow,&uot; he said. &uot;Once we beat GC, we figured that we might has well go ahead and win the championship.&uot;

Still on the GC field, the Saints jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Catholic tied it up in the fourth, and Crumpler walked with one out in the fifth.

Keeling and Johnson reached on errors, bringing Crumpler in. Bo Garner singled home Keeling, and John Tuttle knocked a hit to right field to score Johnson. Jack Wright hit in Garner and Tuttle, and the Saints had a sudden 8-3 advantage.

Catholic made a game of it, scoring two runs in the bottom of the inning. But Crumpler struck out four and walked zero in five innings, Harrell allowed only a single hit over the final two, and James Winslow snared a pop fly to give the Saints their first TCIS championship since 1993.

&uot;It was the best feeling ever,&uot; said Harrell, whose performance (in which he went 9-of-11 from the plate and played catcher, third base and pitcher) won him the Most Valuable Player award. &uot;It was awesome.&uot;