Saints advance to state semis

Published 11:01 pm Tuesday, May 12, 2009

VIRGINIA BEACH – Behind a solid complete game on the mound from senior Michael Coburn, Nansemond-Suffolk advanced into the semifinals of the VIS Div. II State Tournament Tuesday with a 6-1 win at Atlantic Shores Christian.

The No. 4-seeded Seahawks outhit the No. 5 Saints 8-4, but NSA took advantage of its chances with runners on base while Coburn and NSA’s defense turned away three such chances for the Seahawks.

Hard-throwing right-hander Michael Johnson, who’s signed to play at Longwood University next year, held NSA scoreless and hitless through two innings before three straight walks by Johnson gave the Saints the bases loaded with one out in the third.

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The Saints still couldn’t come up with a hit against Johnson, but they didn’t need to as freshman Anthony Waldner hit a chopper to shortstop. The Seahawks got the out at second base, but Caleb Bailey’s throwing error to first allowed Christian Upchurch to score and for Geoff Mason to come around from second to score.

With two outs in the Seahawk third, three straight Atlantic Shores singles made it a 2-1 NSA lead before Coburn retired the side.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Seahawks started off with a single by Bailey and a single by Johnson, but on Johnson’s hit, a sharp liner into left field, NSA’s Mike Bradshaw threw directly into second base to catch Bailey for the first out of the inning as he had rounded the bag a step too far. Coburn retired the next two hitters to get through the fourth.

“We did a lot of the little things the way we need to,” said NSA head coach Michael Curry, “like Mike (Bradshaw) being heads up and throwing out the guy at second base.”

The Saints found their timing against Johnson and supplied Coburn with plenty of insurance in the fifth.

With one out, Jim Hassell singled into left field and Waldner followed by bunting and reaching first on an error by Johnson when he slipped trying to field the bunt, then threw late to first.

Isaac Ballou drove a high fly which glanced off the fence in right field for a double to score Hassell. Clean-up hitter Codi Oliver kept the rally going with a grounder into left field for a two-run single. With two down and Oliver on third, Skylar White singled into the right-center field gap to make it 6-1 NSA.

The Seahawks put up one more major threat, in the bottom of the sixth, as they loaded the bases with one out. Coburn answered by striking out back-to-back hitters, keeping the margin at 6-1.

Coburn finished with seven strikeouts and one walk. He needed 80 pitches for the complete game.

“Obviously we got great pitching today. It was a great performance from Michael,” said Curry.

“The main thing we wanted to do was to get ahead and stay ahead and we did that.

“My slider was working, that’s for sure, and my defense played very well behind me,” said Coburn.

“When (Atlantic Shores) got the bases loaded, I just said ‘this is a state tournament game and I have to buckle down and just get it done,’ said Coburn.

NSA (16-6) will meet the winner of No. 1 Greenbrier Christian vs. No. 8 Portsmouth Christian in the semifinals on Thursday at 4 p.m. at the Petersburg Sports Complex.