Warriors make states

Published 11:10 pm Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Nansemond River’s baseball team celebrates the final out of its 7-2 victory over Churchland Wednesday night in the semifinal round of the Eastern Region Tournament in Norfolk. The win sends the Warriors (20-6) into the VHSL State Tournament and into the regional championship against Great Bridge Thursday at 6 p.m. at Old Dominion.

NORFOLK – With its second superb all-around game of the regional tournament, Nansemond River moved into the championship game of the Eastern Region baseball tournament and clinched a state tournament berth with a 7-2 win over Churchland Wednesday night at Old Dominion.

Sophomore Zach Rice and senior Tyler Brown combined on the mound to keep the Eastern District champion Truckers quiet most of the way, holding Churchland to four hits.

At the plate, Travis Johnson came through with big two-out hits in the first and third innings, driving in the first three Warrior runs of the night.

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Just as they did in the quarterfinal win over Woodside Monday evening, the Warriors took the lead in the top of the first.

With two walks and Brandon Lowe getting hit by a pitch, the Warriors loaded the bases with one out. Churchland was an out away from keeping NR off the board after Kyle Moore hit a grounder back to the pitcher and the Truckers got the force out at the plate.

Johnson lined the first pitch from Churchland’s Stephen Butt into centerfield for a two-run single.

Rice, the Warrior starting pitcher, struggled some with his control starting the big game. The Truckers made it 2-1 NR on a passed ball and two walks made the bottom of the first a long half-inning.

Rice held the Truckers there though and his offense helped again in the third, again with two outs.

A balk let Zach Vann move into second with two down and Johnson delivered with a sharp hit again, this time a liner into right-centerfield, scoring Vann for a 3-1 NR lead.

Designated hitter Hayden Champigny followed with a blast off the fence in straightaway centerfield, just below the 395-foot sign on the college field, for an RBI and a 4-1 lead.

The Truckers got a run against Rice in the bottom of the third. With a walk and a hit batter in the Trucker fourth, Rice left with two outs in the frame, giving way to Brown who struck out the first Trucker he faced to retire the side.

The Truckers didn’t truly threaten again as Brown faced only 11 batters to get the 10 outs he needed to finish the game. Rice finished with five strikeouts and Brown notched four.

Nansemond River added insurance in the last two innings, also in similar form to the quarterfinal win.

Churchland came within a hair of an inning-ending double play in the NR sixth but the Trucker first baseman was called off the bag.

The Warriors jumped on the chance to continue the inning. Brown smashed an RBI double into the leftfield corner and Josh Howard brought Brown around with a hard grounder into center for a single.

The Warriors (20-6) will meet a familiar rival in the Eastern Region Tournament final Thursday at 6 p.m. at ODU. Great Bridge beat Kellam 8-1 in Wednesday’s first semifinal for an all-Southeastern District final.

The Warriors are 2-1 against the Wildcats this season. Most recently, Nansemond River beat Great Bridge in the district tournament final.

The quarterfinal round of the VHSL Group AAA State Tournament is set for Tuesday. Regional champions get to host quarterfinal games while runners-up travel.