By Tommy Keeler Jr. - email@example.com
WOODSTOCK -- There will be a lot of reasons for Central to want to win today's Harry Combs Classic baseball and softball tournaments. But, one of the biggest is because of who the tournament is named after.
Harry Combs was a staple of Central sports, always there supporting the Falcons in every athletic event. He passed away in 2009, but many of the players are still aware of how much he meant to Central.
"I remember Mr. Harry Combs, he was a big part of this school," Central senior Sean Semones said. "We've been really wanting to do this for him, and hopefully the weather is nice for us so we can do that this weekend. And get some wins, hopefully."
Central tried to have the tournament last year, but it was rained out twice. If today's games get rained out, the make-up date is April 14.
Both the softball and baseball tournaments feature four-team fields. Central plays East Hardy (W.Va.) in the first baseball semifinal at 11 a.m., followed by Curwinsville Area (Pa.) against Broadway at 1:15 p.m. The consolation and championship games are scheduled for 3:45 and 7 p.m., but games may not stay on schedule. Each game will start 25 minutes after the previous game.
Central is playing well coming into the game. The Falcons started off the season winning four of their first five games.
Foltz said East Hardy usually has a strong program, although it will be the first time he's coached against them since he was coaching Massanutten Military Academy's baseball team.
Playing two games in one day will give Foltz a chance to evaluate his pitching staff.
"I'm probably going to use it to get some kids time on the mound," Foltz said. "I was just joking with the kids that if you got a uniform on, you got a chance to pitch this Saturday."
Central played George Mason earlier this week, and Clarke County on Friday, and has another district game on Tuesday.
Central's softball team also has a busy schedule, but the team is still excited to play in today's tournament.
The Falcons will play Harrisonburg at 11 a.m. in the first semifinal, followed by Skyline playing East Hardy in the second one at 12:45 p.m. The consolation and finals are scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Central has started off 3-2 this season, with its losses coming to a solid Warren County squad.
"I think we're pretty strong right now," Central sophomore Sydney Plum said. "We still have room to grow, but our defense is a wall. There's rarely any times when we let something by. We're hitting like no other. We still have room to grow, but every team does. I think we're at a good place to start."
Plum had a lot to do with the Falcons' win over Stonewall Jackson last week, when she threw a no-hitter in the 9-0 win. Plum said she didn't know she had the no-hitter until after the game when Central coach Marty Bundrick told her.
"It was pretty exciting," Plum said. "It was something good that I can put in my memory bank now. But it wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for having my defense. It wasn't just me. Our defense was a wall. And Mikayla [Viar caught] and didn't let anything get by. It was a team effort."
Even though there are several Group AA teams in the tournament, the Falcons have plenty of reasons to be confident about their chances. Central beat Harrisonburg in a scrimmage before the season started.
Plum said Central also was given added confidence before the season even started after winning a fall league that included Musselman (W.Va.), James Wood and Clarke County.
"I think there are double-A teams [in the tournament], but we can't be scared," Plum said. "I think we're more than capable of beating them."
Skyline has also been playing well. They are 2-3 and are tied for second in the Northwestern District. The Hawks had back-to-back-to-back home runs from Sarah Beamer, Sabrie Neeb and Taylor Henry to ignite them to a 6-1 victory over Sherando earlier this week.
Skyline coach Frank Nelson said he likes being in a tournament like this.
"I think it teaches kids to play under a little bit of pressure," Nelson said.
Being the host team makes the Falcons want to win the tournament even more.
"We want to do it for ourselves, and what team wants to lose on their field?," Plum said. "If you're hosting it, you want to show that you're the best. Right now, I think we're possibly one of the best. We want to take it all."
Then there's always the pressure of wanting to play well for Combs. The Central baseball players understand how great it would be to win the tournament for Combs.
"He was here for every game, for every sports event," Central junior Eric Semones said. "Trying to win on our home field for Harry Combs is going to mean a lot for this school."
It would also mean a lot for Foltz, who said he knew Combs well. Combs was a big supporter of the Woodstock River Bandits Valley League team, which Foltz coached for several years.
"It's going to be special to me because I still miss him," Foltz said. "I'd love to see us do well in it. I know he's up there watching. He didn't miss a game here, and I know he's not missing a game there."