Fluco baseball team wins State quarterfinal; Falls in semifinal

Fluco baseball team wins State quarterfinal; Falls in semifinal

By Duncan Nixon, Correspondent

The Fluco baseball season ended on Friday, June 8. Coach Joel Gray’s squad lost 8-2 in the Division 3 State semifinals to a powerful team from Abingdon High School. It was, however, a highly successful season for a young and talented squad.

The team’s appearance in a state semifinal was a first for the Fluco program. The Flucos reached the semis by scoring an impressive quarter final win over Northside High School from Roanoke. In the quarter finals, Coach Gray elected to go with sophomore Andrew Ward as his starting pitcher and the decision paid off. Ward went the first three innings and allowed only one run on three hits with one walk and one strike-out. Toby Sherman came on in the top of the forth and he shut down Northside the rest of the way allowing no runs on three hits with two strike-outs and one walk. He eliminated seven batters in a row at the end of the fifth, the sixth and the start of the seventh. In the sixth, he induced Northside to ground out to second, third and shortstop in that order.

Ward and Sherman only struck out three, but they walked only two and pitched impressively with runners on base, as they relied on the fielders behind them to do their jobs, which they did. The Flucos did not allow a runner to reach base on an error, and Northside hit only four fly balls to the outfield in seven innings.
The Flucos started strong in this game, as they have in the past. They scored three in the bottom of the first for what turned out to be the only runs they would need. Shortstop Cameron Shields led off with a solid single to left field. Catcher Jacob Critzer followed with a single to right that was bobbled by the right fielder allowing Shields and Critzer to move to second and third. Kevin Ward singled to score the first run of the game. A walk to Shaun Holyfield loaded the bases. Centerfielder Dashon Carter then singled to center field to score runs two and three.

Northside scored one run in the top of the third on a walk, a stolen base and a single. The Flucos responded in a way that is typical of this scrappy team. They scored two runs, without a hit. Critzer walked and Andrew Ward walked. Coach Gray then elected to have clean-up batter Kevin Ward bunt. The bunt was successful, and it moved the runners up to second and third. A fielders’ choice and a sacrifice fly by Carter scored two and the Flucos were into the semi-finals. The Flucos managed only five hits, with only one coming after the first inning, but their pitching and fielding were strong.

In the semifinal game that followed the Flucos win, it just was not to be. Abington jumped to an early lead plating three runs in the top of the first. The Flucos did not manage to get a hit until the fourth inning when Shields got a double and the Flucos cut the lead to 4-1. However, Abingdon hit well, adding one in the fifth inning and a game ending three more in the top of the sixth.

After the quarterfinal game Coach Gray gave much credit to Mike Sheridan his predecessor as varsity coach of the Flucos. He noted that he feels that Sheridan did an impressive job building the program. The Flucos expect to have most of their starters back next season and could continue to be a factor at the District, Region and State level.

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