Late blast pushes Saints to tourney title

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 6, 2005

It was the sixth inning of its battle with Atlantic Shores in the title game of the Hampton Roads Invitational baseball tournament Friday evening at Oscar Smith, and the Nansemond-Suffolk Academy baseball team was feeling a bit apprehensive. They’d started off by rallying by Cape Henry 4-3, charged past Norfolk Collegiate 10-0, then rallied again to defeat Indian River 4-1. Now they were six outs from their first-ever tourney title, but equipped with only a 4-0 lead that could disappear with one grand-slam-hitting swing of the bat.

So, the Saints did what any decent team would do in the situation. They went wild.

NSA pushed across seven runs, upping the lead to 11-0 and adding another score in the seventh to snare the tournament title. All nine of the Saints that had started the contest crossed the plate, and Jason Rock shored down Shores from the mound.

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&uot;I felt confident that my team could get me some hits,&uot; Rock said. &uot;In the sixth, we just busted it open. We wanted to have a guaranteed win.&uot;

After tormenting opposing defenses with a seven-RBI, three-double, .600 batting average performance, Jeff Cooper was named the tournament Most Valuable Player.

&uot;I was surprised,&uot; said the senior, who took his team to second in the tournament last season. &uot;We pulled together real well and got them down with a couple of big innings.&uot;

Adam Keeling, who pitched in the Henry and River wins, got the tournament’s Most Defensive Player honor.

&uot;We felt really confident,&uot; Keeling said of his team’s mindset before the title game. &uot;We’d faced a couple of good teams, but we felt like we were at the top of the tournament. This gave us four straight wins and good momentum toward the rest of the season.&uot;

Matt Hamlet, a member of the Great Bridge High team that won the Southeastern District and Eastern Region title last year, made the All-Tournament team. The Saints return to action Thursday at Hampton Roads Academy and return home Friday to battle St. Christopher’s.