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When Staunton River moved from the Seminole District to the Blue Ridge, it was hoped that the school’s athletic programs would benefit.
For the most part, that has been the case. Staunton River has earned a fistful of district titles in various sports. In some cases, the improvement came right away. In others, it has taken a bit of time.
You can place Staunton River’s baseball program in that latter category. The Golden Eagles seek to assert themselves as a force in the Blue Ridge, after going winless over last season’s district gauntlet.
“Last year, we tried to play the spoiler role,” said River Head Coach Brian Divers, of the season in which all of the rest of the Blue Ridge was in the running for the district crown. “This year, we’ve got all of our pitching back and, defensively, we’re as good as we’ve been in a long time.”
That assessment should give the rest of the Blue Ridge cause for pause.
That pitching to which Divers refers includes a quintet of right handers.
Thomas Morris leads the pack, as the only senior. The 6’5” long drink of water brings a three-quarters delivery which can be quite deceiving. The ball doesn’t seem to have a lot of velocity as it leaves Morris’s hand. That is, until said ball is past you. Sneaky.
Chance Witt is a junior who won four games for the Eagles last year, including its upset of Jeff Forest. He’s not big (5’9”, 160 pounds) but has picked up some strength in the weight room.
Cameron Paksoy looks comfortable with any of three pitches and looked strong in scrimmage action against E.C. Glass, throwing three shutout innings.
Patrick Love, normally a middle infielder, will bring the same grittiness to the mound that he brought to the wrestling mats this winter.
Mitchell Hullett, who started last year as a freshman, is such a superb all-around athlete that he’s destined to see mound time.
Rich Miles, another pitcher, is out with a broken arm.
Many of those same fellows will spend time in the infield when not pitching. Morris will bring his big frame to first base.
You can’t spell glove without “Love,” and Patrick will bring that trusty glove to second base. Witt can plug in at second, as well.
Hullett has such a strong arm, he should prove invaluable at shortstop.
Other infielders include big, bad Trevor Duncan at first. He belted a couple of homers last year on the JV. John Divers, no relation to the coach, can also see some time at first.
Wes Orfield, who might be the most versatile player on the team, can play second, as well as the outfield.
We’d be remiss not to mention Ryan Robertson, the only lefty on the team. A natural third baseman, Robertson can give the team runs with one swing of the bat. He’s also a proven shortstop.
Brian Ellis, who is more noted as a crushing linebacker in the fall, can also fill in at third. If nothing else, you can count on Ellis bringing a high level of leadership and enthusiasm to this team.
Donning the tools of ignorance will be a fellow who is quite bright. Paul Williams returns for his second season behind the plate, after starting as a freshman.
Diver has a lot of faith and confidence in Williams, who will call the pitches during the game.
The outfield features Jarodd Nichols, a three-sport dynamo who should lead off. He was a second teamer on the All-BRD squad last year.
He’ll be joined by Tyler Wheeler, who shows some surprising speed, and Orfield. Another option is Josh DeHart, who is as fundamentally sound a player as you’ll find.
How all of this talent translates into wins and losses, of course, remains to be seen.
“As long as we pitch and make routine plays, we should give ourselves an opportunity,” assessed Divers.
What they do with that opportunity is up to them.