Southampton baseball team wins Tri-Rivers regular season, tourney crowns

Published 6:45 pm Wednesday, May 25, 2022

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The Southampton High School varsity baseball team closed out the 2022 regular season in dominant fashion and carried that momentum into the abbreviated district tourney to become the first Indians team in at least five years to earn both the Tri-Rivers District regular season and tournament titles.

Now the Indians (15-4) are poised to compete in the Region 3A Tournament. Holding the No. 2 seed, they have a first-round bye and are set to play at home Friday, May 27, at 4:30 p.m. against the winner of the Wednesday, May 25, contest between No. 7 Lakeland High School and No. 10 Phoebus High School.

For Southampton, the season’s turning point came in the Albemarle Easter Tournament in Gates County, North Carolina.

Billy Jenkins, head coach of the Indians, said his team played some elite-level squads in that tourney.

“We took our lumps there, but when we came back, I think we ended up winning 10 of our last 11,” he said.

Southampton finished the regular season with three lopsided shutout victories, leading to a 12-2 district record and a shared district regular season title with Surry County High School.

The Tri-Rivers District Tournament was supposed to feature the district’s top four seeds, but Jenkins noted that an accumulation of rainouts ended up limiting the tourney to the top two seeds in a May 20 showdown.

“They got the home game,” he said, referencing the Surry Cougars, “but we took care of business there on Friday afternoon — 19-0.”

Accounting for Southampton’s success this year, Jenkins put the focus squarely on his players.

“Our kids were just gritty,” he said. “They grinded down the stretch.”

He estimated that it was the third game of the year when one of the Indians’ pitchers separated his shoulder in practice.

“So we navigated through the year with one ace pitcher, and we kind of nitpicked a pitching rotation together to get through the year, and all those guys stepped up,” Jenkins said. “It was really amazing.”

The quality of Southampton’s players was advertised strongly Monday night, May 23, at the All-Tri-Rivers District meeting when seven Indians made the all-district first team, led by senior outfielder Nathan Yeary, who was named Tri-Rivers District Player of the Year.

Jenkins shared the district Coach of the Year honor with Surry Head Coach Stephen Ross.

Highlighting Yeary, Jenkins described him as the backbone of the team.

“He’s batted almost .700 on the year,” Jenkins said. “This is the best stat to me — he had zero strikeouts on the entire year. That’s crazy.”

Southampton’s ace pitcher was junior Peyton Ricks, who also made the all-district first team.

“He pitched every big game we had,” Jenkins said. “I think he ended the year 5-1 with his record.”

The coach said senior first baseman Ashby Pope hit the ball well, and he also made the first team.

Senior Christian Kizer made the first team as a second baseman.

“I think he had two walk-off hits on the year, which it’s hard enough to get one — he had two in one season,” Jenkins said.

One Southampton underclassman made the first team.

“We’ve got a little 10th-grade shortstop that’s the real deal — Jaiden Godette,” Jenkins said. “He’s going to be special. He was first team.”

Senior outfielder Layne Felts earned all-district first-team honors, and so did senior Dexter Ivey, as a designated hitter.

“He’s a football player,” Jenkins said of Ivey. “I don’t think he ever got first team on football, and he comes and plays baseball, and he can mash it.”

Senior outfielder Zach Lee made the all-district second team.

The postseason for this group of Southampton players is set to resume Friday in a Region 3A quarterfinal home game.

“It’s a new season,” Jenkins said. “It’s win and keep going, survive and advance.”