Rough road for Warriors

Published 8:17 pm Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Nansemond River High School senior Corbin Townsend slides into third base against host Hickory High School during the Warriors’ recent 6-3 victory.

Nansemond River High School senior Corbin Townsend slides into third base against host Hickory High School during the Warriors’ recent 6-3 victory.

The early season has not gone as expected for Nansemond River High School’s 2015 baseball team, a squad that Warriors coach Mark Stuffel said he thinks is “one of the stronger teams we’ve had,” featuring depth at every position.

Through six games, the Warriors are 3-3.

Last season, they went 21-3, not registering their third loss until the semifinals of the regional tournament when they lost 3-2 to eventual Group 4A state champion Hanover High School.

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This season, Nansemond River has been 0-2 and 2-3, but as it returned to .500 on Thursday, the team created some important momentum for itself by doing something last year’s team could not — beat Hickory High School.

The Warriors pulled off a 6-3 road victory over the defending Group 5A state champion Hawks in what Stuffel described as “the first time we hit the ball all year.”

“To sum it up, we just haven’t hit this year,” he said. “We’ve got a good hitting team that has just not hit.”

Though he expects his team to do better, Stuffel noted the caliber of players on opposing teams has contributed to the offensive drought.

“We’ve seen really good pitching all year,” he said. “We’ve seen D1 arm after D1 arm.”

Nansemond River has lost this season to perennial Southeastern District powerhouses Grassfield and Great Bridge high schools, and it most recently fell to King’s Fork High School, which earned its first win over the Warriors in years.

Defense has not been the problem.

“Our pitching has been phenomenal,” Stuffel said, drawing attention to the fact his team has given up only 14 runs in six games, an average of 2.3 runs per game.

NR senior pitcher Robert Fitzwater has thrown at least 15 innings of baseball this year, including seven shutout innings against Great Bridge. He has given up only two runs so far, both in a complete game against King’s Fork.

“Our defense has been really good,” Stuffel said.

But the hitting has been sporadic.

However, against the Hawks on Thursday, the offense came alive in the fourth and fifth innings like it has not done all season, producing four and two runs, respectively.

With Hickory up 3-0, sophomore Jarret Henderson hit a two-run home run in the fourth. Later, junior Matt Holt added another two-run homer.

Fitzwater went 2-for-2 in the game with a run scored, and senior Kieton Rivers, last year’s conference Player of the Year, also got two hits.

“He’s one of the guys who hadn’t been hitting,” Stuffel said of Rivers.

The coach has been altering the lineup this year.

“We’re just trying to put a combination together that will score some runs,” he said, noting Henderson, a recent standout, “is actually a floater between (junior varsity) and varsity.”

Stuffel indicated his team needs to manage the mental side of the game well.

“We’ve got a solid team, and I think when it counts, I think the bats will be there,” he said.

The Warriors host Hanover today at 3 p.m.

“It should be a good game,” Stuffel said. “Hopefully, we can score some runs.”