Warriors reflect on season

Published 9:29 pm Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Coach Mark Stuffel, crouching down left-of-center, delivers his final postgame speech to the 2012 Nansemond River Warriors following their loss Tuesday in the first round of the state championships to C.D. Hylton High School.

NRHS coach gives senior leaders high marks

By Titus Mohler
Correspondent

At the conclusion of another year in Nansemond River High School baseball, head coach Mark Stuffel took some time to reflect on it and preview what the 2013 season has in store for the Warriors.

This year’s squad featured nine seniors, and even before they had played their last game, they had cemented their place in Nansemond River history with their high school performances.

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Stuffel referenced both of the team’s major accomplishments when he described the season’s highlights.

“Definitely beating Menchville in regionals was a big one, getting us back into states,” he said. “The win over Western Branch to clinch the district was a big, big win.”

This year marked the first time in school history that Nansemond River won the Southeastern District for the regular season.

The other key achievement — back-to-back appearances in the state tournament — was one of the things that Stuffel touched on in his final post-game talk with the 2012 Warriors.

“We just talked about how much I’ve enjoyed coaching them,” he said. “I thanked them for bringing us as a school and a staff to the state tournament two years in a row. That’s something a lot of coaches don’t ever get to, and these guys have done it twice.”

The full team meeting came to its conclusion, but Stuffel was not done yet.

“I talked to each of my seniors, individually,” he said. “Luckily, this group has got a lot of kids going on to play college baseball. We talked about that and how this isn’t the end for these guys. They’ve got a lot of baseball ahead of them.”

Leftfielder Kyle Moore, who was a Major League Baseball draft prospect, and shortstop Brandon Lowe have both signed commitments to play for the University of Maryland.

Second baseman/pitcher Ty Brown has committed to Wingate University in North Carolina and first baseman/pitcher Travis Johnson will also be headed to NC to play for Methodist University in Fayetteville. Third baseman Blake Eure will play for UVA-Wise.

With so many seniors graduating, some might expect that next year could be the embodiment of a rebuilding season. Stuffel disagrees.

“I really feel like a lot of the younger guys have learned a lot from this group,” he said. “I feel pretty good about the team we’re going to have next year. It won’t be as strong as this team, but we’re going to be a good team.”

Stuffel said some of the notable players from this year’s team that will be back.

“We’re returning two starting pitchers. We’ve got Colin O’Brien coming back and Zach Rice coming back,” he said. “We’re going to be solid up the middle, defensively, and I feel like we’re going to swing the bat pretty good. I’m excited to see how next year’s team shapes up.”

But the coach was clear about what next year’s team will miss most from the seniors.

“The biggest thing to me, next year, is leadership,” he said.

Then, Stuffel added something that, for the 2013 Warriors, was a simple statement, but also likely an invitation.

“We’ll lead as coaches,” he said. “(But) it’s always nice to have players that you know will step up and lead the team.”