Flucos top Abingdon for spot in State semifinals

Flucos top Abingdon for spot in State semifinals

By Duncan Nixon, correspondent

The Abingdon High Falcons came to Fluvanna County High on June 4 for a State tournament quarterfinal matchup. The game was an extremely tense pitchers’ dual that was decided on a left field line double by Fluco junior shortstop Cameron Shields that scored the game’s only run, leading the Flucos to win 1-0.

Fluco ace Andrew Ward took the mound against the Falcons, a team that knocked the Flucos out of last year’s State tournament. Ward got off to a slow start. In the first inning, he had some very uncharacteristic control problems. He walked the second and third batters and after striking out the Falcons’ clean-up batter, he hit the fifth batter with a pitch to load the bases. However, a soft line drive to Shields ended the inning. The Falcons did not know it then, but they were done.

In innings two, three, four and five, Andrew Ward retired the Falcons in order, striking out the side in the fifth. Meanwhile, the Flucos were having trouble producing any offense against the Falcons’ starter, who in the first three innings was practically matching Ward out for out. In the bottom of the fourth, Fluco senior catcher Jacob Critzer lined his second single of the game into the outfield. At that point, his two hits were all the offense the Flucos had generated. Kevin Ward followed Critzer to the plate. He hit a scorching one hopper to the first baseman’s right. It looked like it would be a single that would put men on first and third. However, the Falcon’s first baseman stabbed the ball and started a potential inning-ending double play. Fortunately, Kevin Ward bats from the left side and he was hustling down the line and just beat the throw back to first from second.

With two outs and Kevin Ward at first, Shields came to the plate and lined the ball down the left field line and into the corner. Kevin Ward hustled around the bases to score, giving Andrew Ward the 1-0 lead he needed.

The Flucos threatened to put up an insurance run in the fifth. Junior outfielder Toby Sherman led off with a solid single. Junior outfielder A.J. Brown put down a sacrifice bunt moving Sherman into scoring position. A walk and a force out put runners on the corners with two outs, but the Flucos were unable to push a second run across the plate.

The Falcons produced their only hit of the game in the sixth, a solid two out single up the middle. Andrew Ward struck out the next batter and retired the side in order in the top of the seventh. After hitting the fifth batter of the game, Andrew Ward retired 18 of 19 batters he faced, striking out seven.

After the game, Coach Joel Gray praised Andrew Ward for his dominant pitching and noted that Shields’ double came at a crucial time, and that it was great to have him get back on stride at the plate. Gray noted that Abingdon is a traditional power that has posted 20 or more wins for the past four years. It had to be satisfying for the Flucos to get some revenge for last season’s loss. Shields had praise for the Abingdon pitcher, noting that “all of his pitches were moving.” He reported that the pitch he lined for a double was a curve.

The Flucos now move on to the State semifinals against Brentsville High from Nokesville, near Manassas. The semifinals and finals were originally scheduled to be played June 7-8 at Salem, just west of Roanoke. However, due to the threat of rain, the semifinals and the finals were rescheduled to June 13-14 at Salem.

Photo by Fluvanna Sports Photography

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