Raiders top Warriors in VCC title baseball game

Published 4:19 pm Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tonee Hill yells in celebration after the final out. -- Cain Madden | Tidewater News

Tonee Hill yells in celebration after the final out. — Cain Madden | Tidewater News

POWHATAN—For four innings of the Virginia Commonwealth Conference Championship Game, rivals Tidewater Academy and Southampton Academy were locked in a pitchers’ duel between Daniel McKenney and Jacob Holland on Saturday.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Raiders tried to offset the balance. Holland got a one-out hit, and Harrison Pope came in to pinch run for the pitcher. After a Matt Rose double, Pope attempted to come in, and on a play at the plate he was called out.

At this point, Coach Tim Nixon admitted that he lost his composure. Coach Matt Nixon was ejected from the game for the same reason.

“I really feel like you can’t block a base without the ball,” Tim Nixon said. “I felt like he had the plate blocked here, and there was a play earlier in the game where he had done the same thing.”

In the top of the fifth inning, it was the Warriors’ turn to try to upset that balance by stringing together several hits, loading the bases. But Holland struck out one of his six batters for the second out of the inning, and then he caught a routine fly ball to pitch his way out of trouble.

Tonee Hill came in and started the bottom of the inning off with bunt, and Ethan Edwards followed that up by drawing a walk. Jackson Smith doubled, which brought in Hill, and sent Edwards to third.

Brynner Porter grounded out, but that brought in Edwards.

Paul Parker followed that up with a 2-out single, and that brought in Smith.

Parker stole second, and Nate Williams drew a walk, bringing up Holland, who grounded out to end the inning, with runners on first and second.

Holland started out the sixth in fine form, striking out Hunter Buhls. Benji Goodrich followed that up with an impressive short line drive to center field, but Cam Hines made an equally impressive diving catch for the out.

Holland then punched out Trevor Daugherty to end the top of the sixth.

In the bottom of the sixth, Rose began the inning hitting a double, and McKenney lost control of a fastball and pegged Hill, putting runners on first and second.

Edwards came up squaring to bunt, but ultimately drew the walk.

Smith hit a ground ball to the infield, and the fielder made the out at second, but Smith out ran the double play. Two runs scored.

Tristan Holland came in to pinch hit with a runner on first, but McKenney struck him out, and Andrew Lowe popped out to end the inning.

Nixon brought in Tonee Hill in the top of the seventh to close the game out.

Tyler Warner started the inning off with a single, but was forced out at second on a McKenney ground ball. McKenney ran out the double play and later stole second base without a throw.

Hill followed that up with a strikeout to bring the Raiders within one out of the championship. Hope wasn’t dead yet for the Warriors, though, as Payton Holdsworth drove in McKenney with a single, making the score 5-1 Raiders.

Tanner Mitchell hit a solid line drive with two outs, but it was right at Jackson Smith, who made the last out and had knocked in 3 runs.

“We hit it hard all game,” said Tidewater Academy Coach Paul Rogers. “But it was right at them. We had runners on in four of the innings, but we just couldn’t get a hit to knock them in. We have to score runs to win. You aren’t going to beat a team like Southampton only scoring 1 run.”

Nixon said everything changed in inning five, but he added that it could have easily gone the other way after the controversial play at the plate.

“Once I lost my composure, the guys settled right down instead of letting it get to them,” Nixon said. “That could have sidelined us and really messed us up, but instead they picked me up. That’s been our motto all year, if someone’s down, pick them up.”

Rogers said as far as leaving a lot of runners on, particularly in the fifth when they left the bases loaded, he had to tip his hat to Jacob Holland.

“You have got to credit that man in the middle of the diamond,” he said. “He pitched really well today.”

Nixon also thought Holland carried them to a solid victory.

“He’s got a lot of control and he’s a savvy pitcher,” Nixon said. “He knows how to pitch, and he knows these guys.”

Rogers and Nixon both said that McKenney did a good job as well.

“I thought Daniel McKenney pitched a tremendous ball game today,” Rogers said. “He ran out of gas a little there at the end, but he said to me, ‘Coach, you are not going to take me out.’ I had no options, so we rode him. Giving up five runs would keep you in a lot of ball games, but not against Southampton.”

Nixon said he tipped his hat to the fans.

“I think both schools brought really nice crowds, all the way up here to Powhatan town,” he said. “That says a lot about their program, and it says a lot about our program.”

In regard to the state tournament, Rogers said they were where they were last year, as far as defending their VISAA Division III state championship. With losing some key seniors, he said he was happy to be where they were last year.

“As a matter of fact, we’re further than we were last year because we didn’t make it to the VCC Championship Game,” he said. “But we’re sitting right at fourth place, just like last year, and we’re peaking at the right time.”

Nixon said the team is prepared for the state tournament.

“I told them that we’ve done everything that we can to get you prepared,” he said, as far as what he told his team after the game. “We’ve just got to keep our heads, do what we have been doing, and that’s all we can do.”