Saints slug way into semis

Published 10:29 pm Friday, May 8, 2009

NORFOLK – After three days of rainouts and flooded fields, Nansemond-Suffolk and Bishop Sullivan Catholic finally got to play ball Friday, but at Norfolk Academy’s baseball diamond.

The Saints, the home team as the third seed in the Tidewater Conference Tournament, made themselves feel right at home by putting up nine runs in the second inning and going on to a 14-8 victory.

NSA, which plays its home games on a field with deep outfield fences in all directions except close to the right field line, was also at home at Norfolk Academy’s cozy park which has dimensions shorter than 300 feet down both lines and no more than 365 feet to center or the gaps.

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Back-to-back home runs by NSA’s eighth- and ninth-place hitters, Mike Coburn and Geoff Mason, propelled the Saints’ big second inning.

The first seven Saints reached base in the second. NSA got on the board with a two-run double, a liner over third base, by Craig Owens.

Two hitters later, Coburn launched a drive over the left-center field fence high into trees which shield Norfolk Academy’s park from Interstate 64.

After Coburn’s three-run homer made it 5-0, Mason, usually a substitute for the Saints through the season, hit his first home run of the season, sending an equally impressive shot just fair inside the left field line.

With Mason’s homer, all eight NSA seniors have at least one home run this season.

NSA’s second inning was still far from done as Skylar White and Owens added two-out RBI singles. Owens wound up with four RBI in the frame.

Christian Upchurch pitched six innings for NSA. The Crusaders, who lost 10-0 to NSA in the teams’ regular season meeting, got on the board with three runs in the third and put together runs in each of the next three innings against Upchurch, but NSA’s offense kept the lead at a comfortable margin. Isaac Ballou pitched a scoreless seventh inning to close out the game.

Leadoff hitter Jim Hassell was 2 for 4 with two runs scored. Mason and Anthony Waldner added two RBI each. Coburn and Upchurch were 3 for 4 at the plate with Coburn coming around to score three times. NSA’s sixth through ninth-place hitters, Owens, Upchurch, Coburn and Mason, combined to go 10 for 16 with nine RBI.

Nansemond-Suffolk (15-6) faces Hampton Roads in the semifinals of the conference tourney at 11 a.m. Saturday at Greenbrier Christian. The championship game will be played at Greenbrier Christian at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

HRA finished seventh in the TCIS and upset no. 2 Norfolk Collegiate in the first round. Despite the lowly seeding for the Navigators, the Saints should have no problem being ready for Saturday morning’s game. HRA defeated NSA 9-5 in Newport News on April 2.

“It’s a chance for payback against HRA, so we have to show up,” said NSA head coach Michael Curry.

The Virginia Independent School tournament field is already set and the no. 6-seeded Saints will play at no. 3 Atlantic Shores on Tuesday afternoon in a quarterfinal game.