Raiders baseball to defend conference crown

Published 9:16 am Friday, May 9, 2014

COURTLAND—Southampton Academy, the top-ranked team in the VISAA Division III state poll and regular season champion of the Virginia Commonwealth Conference, will begin its title defense this afternoon in Powhatan.

The Raiders (19-2 overall, 11-0 in conference) will take on Kenston Forest (5-8, 4-8) in a semifinal game at 2 p.m. today at Blessed Sacrament Huguenot. The Raiders earned a first round bye as the top ranked team.

In two regular season meetings, SA defeated the Kavaliers by scores of 10-0 and 16-0.

“We have beat them twice this year,” said Head Coach Tim Nixon. “But we have to go in and take them seriously. If you go in with the attitude that you have got this won, then it will bite you real quick.

“I think we are mature enough, old enough, that we will keep our head and maturity levels where they should be. Just keep playing like we have all year, and we’ll be fine.”

Nixon said he is telling his players that with their state ranking, they have a bullseye painted on them.

“It’s a brand new season entering post-season,” he said. “A lot of these teams are playing for their lives to make the state tournament. And with being on top, everyone is out to get you.”

Nixon said this week he’s coaching the fundamentals.

“We’re just going back to the basics, putting down bunts, base running and pickoffs,” he said.

“We’ve been to the state tournament three years in a row, and some of that stuff hurt us last year. We’re trying to learn from every experience and get better.”

Nixon said the goals at the beginning of the season were to win the conference, win the conference tournament, and then win the state championship.

“The goals were set high, but we knew we had a good team, and we knew what we could accomplish if we played up to our potential,” he said. “We’ve won the conference, now we’re focusing on the tournament, and next week, we’ll work on the state tournament. We’re just taking it one step at a time.”

The Raiders enter the conference tournament boasting a .370 team batting average and are scoring 12 runs per game.

Kenston Forest, which has a team batting average of just .220 and is scoring just over four runs per game, will have to content with a SA pitching staff that has a combined ERA of .84.