Chargers fall just short in hard-fought 1B title game

Published 7:57 pm Friday, June 1, 2018

Central High School’s varsity baseball team didn’t achieve the final result it was hoping for in the Region 1B championship game Friday, but the Chargers showed they were exactly where they belonged.

Vying for their first regional title in 24 years, they held host No. 1 Riverheads High School scoreless two outs into the bottom of the seventh inning before the Gladiators were finally able to reach home, clinching a 1-0 victory.

The Chargers will begin play on the road in the Virginia High School League (VHSL) Class 1 state tournament Tuesday.

“I thought our kids played extremely well,” Central Head Coach Michael Atkins said Friday. “I thought we played really strong. We made some terrific plays in the field. The ball was kind of hard to pick up out there when it was in the air. It was moving around quite a bit, so I thought the kids played well, defensively. Christian (Hall) did a fantastic job on the mound, couldn’t have asked any more from him from that effort.”

Hall, a senior, pitched the entire game for the No. 2 Chargers.

On offense, “we had an opportunity we didn’t take advantage of, and sometimes that’s baseball,” Atkins said.

In the top of the sixth inning, Central senior Nate Nowlin put the ball in play, the fielder chose to go for the out at second, the effort failed and the bases were loaded with only one out on the board.

Senior Ethan Hoover came up to bat with two outs and the bases still loaded and hit a ball deep into center field that showed good potential to be a grand slam.

“I thought it was gone,” Atkins said. “… (Ethan) had a terrific hit, it just didn’t tail off quite enough. The kid in center field made a good catch and got to give the hats off to him.”

Noting a missed opportunity on offense at a slightly different point in the game, the coach said, “We had a mental mistake on the passed ball by a base runner who should have already advanced. If he had done that, we should have already scored a run on the board.”

One pivotal play in the game came with the Chargers on defense in the bottom of the seventh. The Gladiators had a runner sliding into second. The ball arrived to Central sophomore Ben Anthony, the runner was ruled out, but then the umpire reversed his call a moment later. Riverheads spectators cited that the reversal came because Anthony had dropped the ball, but Atkins believed the drop was due to the collision of runner and baseman and that it had come after the play’s conclusion.

“We believe very strongly we had the out at second,” he said, “and my kid gets hurt after the play is over and drops the ball and just an unfortunate call — didn’t go our way.”

The coach gave strong encouragement to his players after the game.

“The kids need to hold their heads up and be proud of being here,” he said. “They belonged here, they deserved to be here and they deserve to be in the state tournament next week. They’ve just got to do something with that opportunity.”

On Tuesday at a time to be announced, the Chargers (12-10) will visit the winner of the Region 1A championship game in the VHSL Class 1 state tournament quarterfinals. The teams vying for the Region 1A title are Northumberland High School and West Point High School.