New season, same Warriors

Published 9:22 pm Saturday, March 5, 2011

Baseball squad: Travis Johnson is one of many sophomores who were key players on Nansemond River’s varsity baseball squad last spring and are now juniors with one or two years of experience at this level. The Warriors went 10-10 last season.

On the surface, Nansemond River’s baseball season finished with a 10-10 mark last spring.

Along the way the whole Warrior season seemed to be nothing but one streak after another.

With a lineup made up largely of sophomores, the Warriors went through a couple weeks where they could play with anyone in the Southeastern District. That would be followed by dropping three or four straight games, then back to a winning streak.

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The Warriors were in the mix for a district tournament spot, a finish in the top four of the 10-school league, until the final couple games. With a team he knew would be returning almost completely intact, NR head coach Mark Stuffel, now in his eighth season coaching the Warriors, said last season went largely ahead of schedule.

“We started seven sophomores and went 10-10. Now, we’re a year older and, at least should be, a year better,” Stuffel said.

The junior class includes catcher Zack Vann, shortstop Brandon Lowe, first baseman Travis Johnson and all-district outfielder/pitcher Kyle Moore.

Senior outfielder Hayden Champigny became one of the Warriors’ main power hitters last season.

“We have very high expectations,” Champigny said, “A lot of us have played together since we were eight or nine years old and in little league.”

“This group’s played AAU and everything, mostly together, since they were young. They work hard every day. It’s a lot of fun to coach them,” Stuffel said.

The Warriors formed a Tidewater Summer League team. The league’s a wooden bat league with squads able to have high school and college players, so the competition was another step up. Then came fall ball. During the winter, the Warriors hit in their indoor hitting facility two days a week and worked on conditioning three days a week.

“We haven’t stopped since last spring,” Champigny said.

“Baseball’s a year-around sport here” said senior outfielder/pitcher Dylan Roach.

Infielder/pitcher Josh Howard and first baseman Will Hunter give the Warriors four seniors.

On the mound, Moore turned in a couple excellent complete games against Great Bridge and Grassfield late last season.

“We have five guys I can count on to take the mound and throw strikes. I feel good about where we are. Offensively, we should be stronger,” Stuffel said.

The area needing the most improvement over a season ago is behind the pitching staff.

“We know our pitchers will continue to throw strikes, so defensively we have to back them up,” Hunter said.

“With this group, it’s definitely a team effort. They play and work as a team. There’s not one kid who will make or break us. We have a lot of kids who we can count on in different situations,” Stuffel said.

The Warriors open up playing at city rival King’s Fork on Tuesday, Mar. 15 and have their home opener on Mar. 18 against Western Branch.