Unkind Thursday

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Three local teams bounced from playoffs

By Mike Forster


Thursday is named after Thor, that hammer-smacking god of Norse mythology.

Well, it may not have been Thor, but someone took a hammer to the hopes of Bedford County athletes last Thursday.

On that bleak day, three of the four county teams still in the hunt for State glory had their dreams dashed.

On the JF baseball diamond, Staunton River saw its unlikely run end, 9-5, at the hands of Alleghany.

On the William Byrd pitch, the Jefferson Forest soccer crew fell to arch nemesis E.C. Glass, 2-1.

And on the Harrisonburg softball diamond, the upstart Lady Cav nine was knocked back to earth by a burly bunch of Broadway belles, 19-4.

Alas, a Thursday that started with four county teams in the running ended with three of them converted to spectator status.

Not that the three don't have plenty over which to hold their heads high.

In particular, the Staunton River baseball squad was one of the most pleasant surprises of the spring.  That is, unless you were on an opposing team:  Then, it wasn't pleasant.

Long the doormats of the Seminole and, recently, Blue Ridge Districts, this year's version of the Golden Eagles represent a high-water mark for the program.  That's because the team pulled off the first victory in regional baseball play in the school's history.  Ever.

The Eagles upended second-seeded Spotswood, 4-2, to move on to the regional semifinals.

"Those kids played their hearts out," enthused SR Head Coach Brian Divers, who has led the Eagles to two of their three total regional appearances (1977, 2004 and 2013).  

Mitchell Hullett, the Blue Ridge District Player of the Year, went the distance in posting the win.  "With Mitchell on the mound and with our defense, we always have a chance," noted Divers.

Spotswood, which finished the season 18-4, featured Austin Nicely, who will play ball for UVa next year.  Staunton River, which wrapped up its season at 15-10, featured its usual band of hard-nosed, gritty guys.

The loss to Alleghany was the fourth time the Eagles fell to the Mountaineers this season.  This time the loss was propelled by costly River errors at the most inopportune times.  Still, Alleghany showed it the better team, simple as that.

"We accomplished every single one of our goals," said Divers.  "This is gravy.  We're happy to be here."


Happy times for JF nine

Also happy to be here were the JF Lady Cav softballers.

The team showed itself to have a special brand of moxie during its win over Turner Ashby.

The Lady Cavs were like those gnats that pester you relentlessly on a hot summer afternoon.  Only these gnats had some muscle to them.

Chief among these muscle -flexing pests was shortstop Jeanine Minnick.  The feisty freshman belted a grand slam in the second inning, bringing home Mackenzie Mount, Madison McGrath and Alexis Brown to give JF a 4-1 lead.

Later, after Turner Ashby had clawed its way back to a 6-4 lead, pitcher Janelle Zellars belted a bases loaded single to score Minnick.  McGrath drew a bases loaded walk to tie the game, and we all went to extra innings.

After TA seized a 7-6 lead and the first JF batters were extinguished, all seemed lost:  The Lady Cavs were down to their last out.

But Callie O'Brien, Minnick and Anna Pfister each rapped singles.  That brought catcher Addy Farmer to the plate.  The sophomore slugger blasted a frozen rope to center field bringing home O'Brien and Minnick to win the game.

"Those girls just don't give up," said Head Coach Bob McGrath.  "It's a wonderful thing."

The game against Broadway was not so wonderful.  The Gobblers, which have the look of a college team, mauled four home runs.  "That's a great team that hit well and when they didn't hit well, they hit the gaps," assessed McGrath.


JF in odd place:  the stands

A great program that will be absent from the State scene this year is the JF soccer lads.

Even the absence of Glass's District Player of the Year (red card) Michael Kenney couldn't prevent the Glaziers from beating JF for a fourth time this season.

The theory is that Kenney's presence on the sideline (in street clothes) fired up his mates.

Whatever the reason, the youngish Cavs can start planning their vengeance now.

This year, the Cavs had only a handful of players with meaningful varsity experience from the year before.  Next year, they'll have boatloads.

They'll be back.  Oh, yeah. They'll be back.