Warriors poised for deep playoff run

Published 9:17 pm Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Nansemond River High School senior Kieton Rivers, right, will be a key leader for a 2015 Warriors team that has state championship potential. (Wil Davis/Wil Davis Photography)

Nansemond River High School senior Kieton Rivers, right, will be a key leader for a 2015 Warriors team that has state championship potential. (Wil Davis/Wil Davis Photography)

It is an exciting time to be a Nansemond River High School baseball fan, player or coach.

The Warriors are generally a respected power in the city and the area, and this year, they could be in position to build on what they did last season.

Last year, Nansemond River was the Ironclad Conference regular season and tournament champion and advanced as far as the regional semifinals before losing 3-2 to eventual Group 4A state champion Hanover High School.

Email newsletter signup

Overall, the Warriors went 21-3 for the season, and an inspection of their regular season record reveals that their other two losses came against state champions, as well. Hickory High School went on to win the Group 5A state title and Western Branch High School ended up winning the Group 6A state title.

Looking at his team for 2015, NR coach Mark Stuffel said, “I think it’s one of the stronger teams we’ve had.”

Yes, the Warriors lost six players due to graduation from last year’s team — Hunter Kiessling, Shane McCaw, Mike Parmentier, Trevor Riggs, Chase Williams and Shane Woods.

But despite these losses, “we returned a core from last year, it’s a big group,” Stuffel said. “Our pitching staff and defense is very, very solid.”

The 2015 Warriors feature 11 juniors, five seniors and two sophomores, and much is expected of them all.

“I hope we do similar to what we did last year,” Stuffel said, in terms of success. “It would be nice to get over the hump and make a run deeper into states.”

He later added he thinks this run will happen if they are playing well at the right times.

The coach said he liked the team he had last year, but he likes the make-up of this year’s team even more.

It features senior leadership in the form of shortstop Kieton Rivers, the 2014 Ironclad Conference Player of the Year, and Robert Fitzwater, a 2014 all-conference first team selection as a pitcher and a catcher.

“They’ll be right there in the middle of the lineup,” Stuffel said.

To round out the seniors, Corbin Townsend will man third base and could see time on the mound, Ethan Woodruff will contribute as a pitcher and Greg Parker is aiming to start at catcher.

Like junior Matt Holt, Fitzwater will be a corner infielder when he is not on the mound.

“Being the senior, he’s kind of the leader on the (pitching) staff,” Stuffel said of Fitzwater, but the coach also expressed significant confidence in Holt, Woodruff and junior Michael Blanchard as pitchers. “I feel comfortable running them out against anybody.”

Sophomore Jarrid Johnson, a first team all-conference selection as a freshman, will return at second base.

“We’ve got three juniors in the outfield that are all speedy guys that we expect to do really good things,” Stuffel said, referring to Dion Jordan, Corey Fago and Wil Davis.

And this Warriors squad has impressive depth.

“If one of our starters goes down, we have a kid that can fill right in and can get the job done everywhere,” Stuffel said.

Up-and-comers on the team include junior Johnny Mayer, who plays almost anywhere in the infield.

“He’s really pushing a lot of guys,” the coach said.

And junior Reid Williams is competing with Greg Parker to play catcher.

Nansemond River began its season Tuesday evening at Grassfield High School, and the Warriors’ home opener is scheduled for Friday against Great Bridge High School.