NR boys walk off with win

Published 9:32 pm Wednesday, April 27, 2016

By Matthew Hatfield

Special to the News-Herald

Nansemond River’s baseball team enjoyed a dramatic victory in its PenSouth Conference 10 opener on Tuesday, when the Warriors played host to Peninsula District visitor Gloucester.

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Leading off the bottom of the seventh inning, senior outfielder Dion Jordan provided the game-winning heroics. Jordan belted a walk-off home run to dead centerfield to cap a 4-3 win over the Dukes that pushed the Warriors’ record to 9-6 overall on the season.

“They had a kid on the mound that threw fastballs, and we hit fastballs. The first hittable fastball that he got, he didn’t miss it,” Nansemond River baseball coach Mark Stuffel said.

“We were in a good part of our lineup. I was confident that if Dion could get on, we could do something. We followed up with Jarrid Johnson and Matt Holt. But I didn’t expect him to hit it out. It was pretty nice.”

Jordan, who will play baseball at the next level for Norfolk State, finished 3 of 4. It was his second home run of the season.

“Physically, he’s very strong. He’s put a couple up at the fence and been just shy of a third one,” Stuffel said.

Nansemond River was anxious to shake off an 11-1 road loss from Saturday to a Hanover team that has been a thorn in their side lately. Hanover ended the Warriors’ season in the regional semifinals in 2014 and regional quarterfinals in 2015.

“Honestly, I wasn’t too worried about the Hanover game, because we had one really bad inning,” said Stuffel, referring to surrendering 10 runs in the first inning. “Due to injuries and two starters who were on college visits, we were all mixed up defensively.”

In that game, the Warriors were without three key ingredients, including senior outfielder/pitcher Corey Fago and senior second baseman Nick Lees, who was called on to be the catcher for an inning in a recent contest.

“(Lees) did a really good job back there for being a second baseman,” Stuffel said.

Senior catcher Reid Williams has been absent the past three games after a dangerous slide at home against King’s Fork, where he ended up with 16 stitches in his forearm.

“Hopefully, we’ll have him back again next week,” Stuffel said.

In the third inning, Nansemond River struck first when Fago scored on an RBI sac-fly from Lees. They extended their advantage to 2-0 on a solo home run from senior Chris Henderson, who finished 2 for 3 with a pair of runs batted in.

Gloucester would tie it up with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth inning and again in the top part of the seventh, showing their resiliency.

“I knew Gloucester was a solid team, a well-coached team and one of the stronger teams on the Peninsula. They were actually maybe better than what I thought they were going to be,” Stuffel said.

Michael Blanchard, who’s committed to play baseball at Old Dominion next year, pitched a complete game to raise his record to 5-1 on the season. He also has wins on the season over Southeastern District contenders Grassfield and Western Branch, further cementing his status as one of the best pitchers around.

“He’s a really good pitcher and threw well enough to get the win,” Stuffel said. “He didn’t locate pitches quite as well as he usually does, but Gloucester did a good job of putting the bat on the ball, which Mike has been able to avoid most of the year.”

The Warriors are next in action May 3 at Menchville, a program with a rich baseball tradition that includes a state title as recent as 2009.

“We’ll probably face the lefty who’s an All-American (Jaret West),” Stuffel noted. “They’re one of the tougher teams on that side, for sure.”