By Tommy Keeler Jr.
With a berth in the Virginia Association of Christian Athletics state tournament on the line, Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy coach Bobby Wheelock felt comfortable handing the ball to senior Mike Powell to start the game.
Powell delivered in a big way for the Patriots, throwing a two-hitter in the team's 4-0 win over Fresta Valley on Thursday.
"He's our No. 1 player all-around," Wheelock said. "He's been big for us for four years. I wasn't surprised with how he did at all."
Powell, the Northern Virginia Daily's Male Athlete of the Week for April 21-April 27, struck out eight in the win on Thursday, and didn't allow a hit until the sixth inning.
Wheelock said considering the pressure of the game, it may have been Powell's best outing of the season.
"I think he pitched as well as I've seen him, considering the circumstances," Wheelock said. "We needed it big time -- and he delivered.
"His location was very good. He didn't throw as many curveballs as he usually does. He had good pop on his fastball, and when he did throw a curveball it was working really well. He used the curveball to keep them off balance."
Wheelock said the defense behind Powell was also a key to the win over the Pioneers, and he said Powell also made some good defensive plays himself.
Powell also went 1-for-3 at the plate for the Patriots and scored a run. It was one of two games Powell played in for the Patriots last week. He also went 1-for-1 and was hit by a pitch in a 15-3 win over Mt. View on Monday.
Wheelock said Powell is hitting close to .500 this season at the plate for the Patriots, and leads the team in stolen bases. He is also 2-2 on the mound.
"He's just a very good player," Wheelock said. "He works very hard on his game. He's usually the first one at practice, and the last one to leave."
Wheelock said Powell is also one of the main leaders on the team.
"His leadership has improved a lot for us this year," Wheelock said. "We've made a lot of errors this season, including games where he has pitched, but I think he handles it well. I think he tries to be encouraging. He tries to do his part to help everyone get better."
The Patriots are now 8-5, and have won four in a row, despite having a young squad. SVCA has only three seniors, with three juniors, five sophomores, two freshmen and two eighth graders.
Wheelock said his goal coming into the season was to make the state tournament, and now that the team has done that they will have to adjust their goals.
"Against Fresta Valley we played our best game of the year," Wheelock said. "I think everybody on the team is improving, and I think that all starts with Mike and his play."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org