NSA baseball gets strong start

Published 9:10 pm Friday, April 6, 2012

By Titus Mohler

Correspondent

This year’s Nansemond-Suffolk Academy baseball team features a very young group of players along with a new coach — and both have contributed to a strong start.

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A situation like this one might lead many to think this would be a rebuilding year, but new head coach David Mitchell has the team competitive. The team is 4-3 overall and 2-0 in the TCIS.

Of course, he has still faced the usual challenges of a coach coming into a new situation.

“This is my first year here, so a lot has just been getting used to and comfortable with the players,” Mitchell said. “This is my first time meeting and seeing a lot of them play. It’s their first time under my coaching style, so our expectations, our goals are every day to play the game the right way, to respect the game.”

Mitchell brings a pedigree of success and is not shy about his long-term goals for the NSA baseball program.

“I’ve been high school varsity coach for nine years and won four state titles,” he said. “That’s our vision here is to be successful and to continue with that.”

To achieve that vision, his job will involve helping an incredibly young team develop their talent and skill.

“We’re very young,” Mitchell said. “We only have four seniors on the roster. We have a roster of 17, so a lot of underclassmen, one junior who’s on the roster, Jacob Laine, and then the rest are freshmen and sophomores.”

A recent win over Peninsula Catholic helped give those players some experience. NSA put their subs in during the second inning after having taken a 14-0 lead. They went on to win 28-0.

Like most teams, though, NSA is led by its older players. Senior Taylor Edens has shined as a pitcher.

“He’s got a fastball in the mid-80s, he’s 2-1 as a pitcher,” Mitchell said. “He’s pitched really well.”

Edens has signed a commitment to play for VMI in the fall.

Anthony Waldner has signed to play for Mary Washington and leads the Saints offensively.

“He’s hitting just over .500, he’s got 12 stolen bases, he’s having a fantastic start,” Mitchell said.

Among the younger key contributors, sophomore Reece Walton and freshman Toby Buchanan both hit in the high .300s, while sophomore and leadoff batter Jake Grady is 11 for 11 in stolen bases.

When it comes to identifying an area for improvement, Mitchell can tell just by looking at the numbers.

“In our four wins, we’ve only committed five errors,” he said. “In our three losses, we’ve committed 14 errors, so if we can cut down on those defensive mistakes, we’ve got a chance to be a pretty good ball club.”

One thing that the team excels in to an extraordinary degree is stealing bases. While stats from the Peninsula Catholic game had not yet been added in, through six games, the Saints have stolen 49 out of 52 bases.

If that seems like a lot, it is because it is. Mitchell comes from having played in a college program at Christopher Newport that led the country in stolen bases during his freshman year.

“Individually, I still have the stolen base record at Christopher Newport,” Mitchell said, “so offensively my philosophy is to put pressure on the other team by running the bases hard.”

To qualify for the state tournament, a team must be ranked among the top eight in Virginia. NSA is currently ranked ninth.

“So, we’re hoping if we can win enough games — there’s no set number — but if we can win enough games and do well in our conference and beat teams in our division that we can move up in those rankings and qualify for a state tournament berth,” Mitchell said.