Deep Saints start strong

Published 10:34 pm Friday, March 18, 2016

The Nansemond-Suffolk Academy baseball team is quickly showing how much it has improved since last year.

The Saints went 6-10 in 2015 but are a perfect 4-0 so far this season.

“We’ve gotten off to an excellent start,” NSA coach David Mitchell said, noting it is the Saints’ best opening to a season in a long time, and they have yet to play a game at home.

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Nansemond-Suffolk ended up having only one game this week, and it won 12-0 against Hampton Roads Academy on Thursday.

The Saints offense was powered by junior Mitchell Williams, who went 1-for-2, hitting a 375-foot grand slam home run. He finished with five runs batted in, doing his job well as the cleanup hitter.

Sophomore Garrett Reams was 3-for-4 with two RBIs, and senior Patrick Crossman was 2-for-3 with a RBI.

“Last week, we had our toughest road trip in a long, long time,” David Mitchell said. “The three teams we played last week were all very good.”

NSA started out with two Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division II schools, defeating Highland School 2-1 in Warrenton on March 9 and then topping The Covenant School 5-3 in Charlottesville on March 11.

On March 12, the Saints prevailed 7-5 against Fork Union Military Academy, a VISAA Division I team.

Mitchell pointed to leadership from his seniors as what helped propel his team to success during that first week of the season. He said he and his staff told them before leaving to treat the trip as a business trip, not just a trip on which to have fun.

“We were able to do a little bit of both,” Mitchell said.

Last year, NSA got no further in the postseason than the conference tournament quarterfinals, where it fell to Cape Henry Collegiate School.

The 2015 Saints were quite young, featuring only three seniors, one of which was a starter — Toby Buchanan.

“This year’s team reminds me a lot of the team we had two years ago,” Mitchell said. “We had 11 seniors two years ago and a team that played for a TCIS title.”

The Saints have 10 seniors this year, to go with two juniors, five sophomores and three freshmen.

Eight starters return, part of a remarkably deep team.

“We’ve got 17 full-time varsity players and three (junior varsity) swing players,” Mitchell said. “There’s not much of a drop off, if any, in players one through 20.”

And they have all already gotten opportunities to play.

“This is the first time since I’ve been (at NSA) when we have literally played everybody in our first four games,” Mitchell said.

Last year, the Saints only had three pitchers for the whole season, and this year, a different pitcher has claimed the win in each game — junior James Mullin, Patrick Crossman, Garrett Reams and senior Hunter Foster.

Mitchell said Nansemond-Suffolk could compete for the Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools title this year.

Leading the charge will be senior outfielders Sam Neal and Dominick Claxton.

NSA (4-0) visits Southampton Academy on Monday and hosts Christchurch School on Tuesday.