Flucos capture Region Title

Flucos capture Region Title

By Duncan Nixon, Correspondent

It was a big week for Coach Joel Gray’s Flying Fluco baseball team. They went 3-0 to capture the Region 3C title. On Memorial Day (May 28) they topped Rustburg High 9-0 in the Region quarterfinals. The next day, in the semifinal and State tournament qualifier, they bested the Spotswood High Blazers 9-4. On Friday June 1, they turned back the red hot Western Albemarle Warriors 4-1 to claim the Region 3C title. The top two teams in the Region go to the State tournament and are high or low seeds based on the championship game outcome.

In the title game, Gray used a triumvirate of pitchers. This was a planned move. He told each pitcher that he wanted him to pitch strikes and let the defense do its job. That is exactly what the Fluco hurlers did. Shaun Holyfield pitched the first two innings, Noah Brown pitched the third and fourth and Toby Sherman came on to handle the final three innings.

Meanwhile, the Fluco offense managed to scratch out the runs it needed. The Flucos scored one in the first, two in the fourth and in the sixth added an insurance run without a hit. The only big hit for the Flucos all day was a triple by centerfielder Dashon Carter in the crucial two-run forth. Gray noted that Western had really strong pitching, so it was very important to get the runs wherever they were available. The Flucos qualified for a top seed in the State tournament, and hosted Northside High of Roanoke on Tuesday June 5.

In the important Region semifinal and State tournament qualifier, the Flucos won with two big innings that reflect the type of team they are: hard-nosed and opportunistic. The Flucos took a lead they would never relinquish with three runs in the bottom of the first. Shortstop Cameron Shields and catcher Jacob Critzer worked their way on base with walks. First baseman Andrew Ward followed with a sharp single (his first of three) and the bases were loaded. After a force out at the plate, Shaun Holyfield dribbled a hit to score one. A hit batter and infield error scored two more.

The Fluco fourth inning decided the game. In typical fashion for this team, the Flucos managed to score a huge six runs, with only three hits. With one out, Shields again led off the rally with a walk. Critzer blooped a single and Andrew Ward lashed a hard single to right to load the bases. Fluco pitcher Kevin Ward was hit by a pitch to score one. Holyfield grounded to short. The shortstop bobbled the ball briefly and Ward managed to beat the throw to second to score another run. Kyle Algieri walked to the plate for a third run and left the bases loaded. A wild pitch scored a fourth run and left two on with two out. John Rittenhouse finished the rally with another bloop single that scored two. The Flucos scored six with only one hard hit ball.

Fluco pitching ace sophomore Kevin Ward pitched the first four and two thirds innings. Third baseman, Kyle Algieri was called in to mop up. He gave up a single and a walk to allow two runners left on base to score, but he then retired seven in a row to finish the game. Ward was, according to Gray, “a little rusty.” However, he looked quite impressive as he mixed pitches and speeds very effectively. He is big in size, but shows sophistication in his pitching, not just rearing back and trying to blow batters away. If he was at all rusty, it showed in the higher number than usual of pitches in the dirt. However, Critzer showed why he is in Gray’ s words “the heart of the team,.” as he did the defensive job required of him repeatedly digging pitches out of the dirt to prevent wild pitches or passed balls.

With a very young team Gray has taken the Flucos far due to their very balanced and skilled line-up and their patient and opportunistic play. Wins in the State tournament, if they come, would be gravy on a top-notch season.

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