Surprising Saints say goodbye to seniors

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 29, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Every high school senior wants to go out on top. But in their final season as members of the Nansemond-Suffolk Academy (NSA) baseball team Robert Crumpler and Brandon Winslow got just a little bit more.

After entering the TCIS tournament at the fifth seed, the Saints slipped past Norfolk Academy 2-1 and handled defending conference champion (and tournament host) Green-brier Christian 8-3.

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With all the momentum a team could ask for, NSA took its final step into its first conference crown since 1993, hurtling past Catholic 8-5.

&uot;That was a tremendous end to a sometimes difficult season in which we were hurt by rain and the injury bug,&uot; said Saints coach Doug Parks Tuesday evening at the season banquet at NSA. &uot;But these guys continued to battle and take positive steps. This team stared adversity in the face and got things done. I’m extremely proud of this team.&uot;

That was especially true in the case of his farewell players. &uot;These two were two of the best,&uot; an emotional Parks said of Winslow and Crumpler. &uot;It’s always sad to see the season end, but the real stink is saying goodbye to two kids that have been a part of my life.

&uot;I hope the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) people realize what they’re getting,&uot; he said of Crumpler. &uot;He came to work hard every day, and always gave it his best. Baseball can be a grind, and it’s easy to say that you’re tired, or that your arm isn’t 100 percent. But Robert never did that.&uot; In his final season, Crumpler hit over .300, and pitched for a 4-2 record, including the title game.

Crumpler, who plans to study political science at VMI, also received the Coach’s Award. &uot;He put the team before himself every day,&uot; Parks said. &uot;As a coach, you have to put up with long hours and being away from your family for a long time. But players like him make it all worthwhile.

&uot;Brandon recognized at an early age that baseball is tough, and he turned himself into, I believe, the best centerfielder in the TCIS. He’s a tremendous athlete, and an even more tremendous person. As a captain, he led by example.&uot;

&uot;That title felt awesome,&uot; said Winslow, a future basketball and baseball star at Chowan College (he plans to become a business major). &uot;I knew that four years of hard work had paid off. It’s sad to be leaving a great bunch of guys; the atmosphere and camaraderie of this team was unbelievable.&uot;

The team batting title, Parks said, went down to the final week of the season. Three Saints batted over .400 for the season, and eight were about .300. But in the end, Todd Harrell’s .478 (including a 9-of-11, .818 performance that won him the TCIS tournament Most Valuable Player award) won him both the title and team MVP, the latter of which was voted by his teammates.

&uot;I knew that the whole team was behind me,&uot; said Harrell. &uot;One person can’t do it all alone, it takes the entire team. I hope we do just as well next year.&uot;