Warriors fall in state tourney
Published 10:09 pm Tuesday, June 5, 2012
By Titus Mohler
Baseball season came to an emotional end for the 2012 Nansemond River Warriors in the first round of the VHSL State Tournament after a 2-0 loss to C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge on Tuesday evening.
Getting to the first round matched the furthest any Warrior team had ever gotten, a mark set last year by essentially the same group that led this year’s squad, now as seniors.
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The game was scoreless until the bottom of the sixth inning. Then, a Bulldogs batter hit a ball just within the left field line. The throw to senior catcher Zach Vann got there in time to catch the runner coming from third, but he was not able to hold on to it, and the deciding run scored.
“It was good pitching on both sides,” Warriors coach Mark Stuffel said. “They got the lucky hits that we didn’t get. They had a few balls that dropped in some tough places.”
Warriors senior pitcher Tyler Brown had four strikeouts, and Bulldogs pitcher Alec Bettinger had five. Both pitchers have committed to colleges, Wingate University and University of Virginia, respectively.
Certain fluke-type elements were present in the game, like a hit that took a bounce off an uneven patch of ground and got by second baseman Tucker Rhoads in the fourth inning. Stuffel addressed these elements by drawing a connection to the quality of both teams.
“When you got two good teams playing, that’s usually going to be the difference in the game — it’s who can get the lucky hit,” he said. “We didn’t get the lucky hit tonight.”
After the Bulldogs added another run in the bottom of the sixth, the Warriors (17-6) had one last chance to come back. Vann hit a double deep into left field. Senior left fielder Kyle Moore, who could be drafted into the major leagues this week, has been a clutch hitter this season, but he was not able to capitalize this time, striking out swinging.
Designated hitter Colin O’Brien got a hit, but was thrown out at first, and senior centerfielder Ryan O’Hara struck out swinging to end the game and the year.
Tears were flowing after the game amongst a Nansemond River team that featured nine seniors who had just played together as Warriors for the last time.
“This is the second year that these guys have come to states,” Stuffel said. “Both times we’ve been knocked out in the same round. It’s not often you even make it to states as a coach and to have a group like this bring me to it twice is unbelievable.”
As players embraced one another to provide consolation and closure to their baseball journey, the coaches were notably participating in the moment as well.
Coach Stuffel alluded to what this particular group of seniors meant to him.
“It’s a great group, close-knit group of kids,” he said. “This’ll be really sad to see them move on.”