Baseball run ends in state quarters

Published 1:45 pm Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Central High School’s varsity baseball team saw its 2018 run come to an end in the Virginia High School League Class 1 state quarterfinals, but by the end of the tournament, it became clear that the Chargers were legitimate contenders for not only the regional title but the state crown as well.

In the Region 1B tournament championship game June 1, No. 2 Central was locked in a highly competitive battle with host No. 1 Riverheads High School. The game was scoreless until the Gladiators were finally able to score with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to walk off with a 1-0 win.

In the state tourney, Riverheads went on to top West Point High School 11-6 in the quarterfinals, defeat Northumberland High School 7-1 in the semifinals and rout Honaker High School 13-1 in the state title game.

Chargers Head Coach Michael Atkins said the most important game for his team was that regional final against the Gladiators.

“I felt like they were the team that was going to go all the way without question,” he said. “And so again, there’s a little bit of that mixed emotion that you had them, and we didn’t quite put them away, but that’s us growing as a program, and these kids — when we took over the program — have now brought the program back to a level of respectability and recognition that it had in the past, and, that, I’m always going to be grateful for.”

Central, which finished 12-11 this year, reached the regional title game and qualified for the state tournament for the first time since 1994.

Because the Chargers lost in the regional final, they had to travel to face the Region 1A champion in the state quarterfinals. This took them to Northumberland where they fell 7-0 on June 5.

“We did not have the game we wanted to,” Atkins said.

He noted that Central came in well prepared.

“We had a terrific practice the day before,” he said.

He added that he and his staff talked with the team before the game, stressing the importance of setting the tempo, establishing momentum early.

Senior Ethan Hoover got the start on the mound.

“Unfortunately, he didn’t have the outing he wanted,” Atkins said. “Sometimes that happens.”

The Indians were able to score two runs in the first inning and two runs in the second.

Senior Christian Hall relieved Hoover on the mound, but Northumberland went on to score three more runs.

Atkins gave credit to the Indians’ pitcher for doing a good job.

“We weren’t hitting the ball well enough,” he said, though he noted Hoover got a double. “We had a few base runners here and there, but up and down the order, we didn’t really get much done with the bat.”

The coach made it clear, however, that he would remember the 2018 Chargers for their legacy of success that grew as they matured.

“You saw progress and advancement each year,” he said.

See next week’s edition for full coverage of Central baseball’s all-state, all-region and all-district accolades. Hoover led the way for the Chargers, earning the title of Region 1B Player of the Year. The team drew three state honors, nine regional awards and three district accolades.