NR visits Grand Canyon State

Published 7:22 pm Saturday, April 2, 2016

Nansemond River High School senior Wil Davis slides into third as the Warriors competed in the Coach Bob National Invitational in Arizona over spring break this past week. (Photo by Wil Davis/

Nansemond River High School senior Wil Davis slides into third as the Warriors competed in the Coach Bob National Invitational in Arizona over spring break this past week. (Photo by Wil Davis/

High school helps students broaden their horizons.

Most of the time, this happens in the classroom, but sometimes it involves physically going places and experiencing new things.

Last week, Nansemond River High School’s baseball players traveled farther to play for the team than they ever have before.

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“It’s the first time we’ve flown,” Warriors coach Mark Stuffel said.

The destination was Arizona, where Nansemond River participated in the Coach Bob National Invitational, taking on teams from Arizona, California, New York and Illinois.

The Warriors went 1-3 against the strong competition, struggling through some errors against Brooklyn’s Xaverian High School that led to a narrow 7-6 loss.

“All said and done, it was great week for us,” Stuffel said. “I feel like we got better. We saw good pitching all week. It was a phenomenal experience for the kids. And any week I get to see the Cleveland Indians play is a great week.”

The NRHS team watched a bit of the professional baseball team’s spring training, and they also visited the Grand Canyon.

Stuffel said every spring break baseball trip, no matter how far away, is an experience that helps the Warriors bond, strengthening them as a team.

“We always tend to play better after spring break,” he said.

The trips can also expose his players to things they may never experience again. As for Arizona, Stuffel said, “Nobody has said they had been here before, so yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s new to all of them.”

One new team the Warriors faced on the diamond was the Sandra Day O’Connor High School Eagles from Phoenix, Ariz.

“They were the best team in the tournament,” Stuffel said. “They were really good. I think they won the whole tournament.”

The Eagles defeated Nansemond River 11-3 on Monday, outhitting the Warriors 14-5.

Stuffel said his team saw three of O’Connor’s pitchers, and they all threw close to or above 90 mph.

On Tuesday, the Warriors went to extra innings against Simi Valley High School before losing 7-3.

“Mike Blanchard pitched very, very well,” Stuffel said of one of his senior starters, who held the Pioneers to three runs through seven innings.

In the eighth inning, Simi Valley got a home run off of Blanchard to go ahead 4-3. Sophomore Gage Williams took the mound in relief but gave up three more runs to the Pioneers.

“They were a very good team,” Stuffel said.

On Wednesday, Nansemond River fell 7-6 to the Xaverian Clippers.

“I felt like it was a game we should have won,” Stuffel said.

The Warriors out-hit Xaverian 13-8, but they were undone by five errors committed across the first three innings.

Offensive standouts for Nansemond River included seniors Nick Lees and Brendan Ratkovich, both 3-for-4 at the plate. Seniors Chris Henderson and Matthew Holt had two hits apiece.

Holt pitched that game, and Stuffel said, “He threw well. We just made five errors behind him.”

In a consolation game on Thursday, the Warriors orchestrated an 11-1 blowout victory against Thornton Fractional South High School from Lansing, Ill.

Gage Williams was on the mound all six innings of the game, allowing only four hits and throwing four strikeouts, “so he pitched the ball really well,” Stuffel said.

NR senior Johnny Mayer was 2-for-2, with five runs batted in. He had a bases-clearing triple in the fourth inning. Junior Jarrid Johnson was 2-for-2, was walked twice and scored three runs. Holt was 2-for-2, with three RBIs and two runs scored.

The Warriors (4-4) host Western Branch High School on Tuesday.