By Tommy Keeler Jr.
There's not much question Skyline is the team to beat in the Northwestern District tournament, when it starts today.
The Hawks, who have won at least a share of the regular season title for three of the last four years, are the top seed and only lost one district game all season. Skyline's loss to James Wood in the regular season was when the Hawks were without starting pitcher Sarah Beamer.
Skyline lost a lot to graduation last year, and winning the regular season title with a young team makes it even sweeter for the Hawks.
"I think it means a lot to the girls because we're a young team," Skyline coach Frank Nelson said. "We only got three seniors. I think the girls want to take it the whole way."
Nelson said he is concerned with the team's slow starts in many of their games. Sherando is seeded second, and could be the team that has the best shot at knocking them off.
The Warriors lost two close games to the Hawks, 7-5, and 4-0. They also lost 11-0 to Skyline, a game in which errors did the Warriors in.
"I thought that the first game of the year and [the 4-0 loss] was more indicative of how our levels are," Sherando coach Clarence Smith said.
Both Nelson and Smith are aware they have some work to do before another matchup between the two teams could happen.
Skyline will play the winner of today's Millbrook-Handley play-in game on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Skyline. The Warriors will face third-seeded James Wood in the other semifinal, which will follow the Skyline game.
If Skyline wins it's semifinal, then the James Wood-Sherando game would be for a Region II berth.
The Warriors have defeated the Colonels three times, but Smith said he knows beating them a fourth time will be difficult.
"We have a very dangerous James Wood team, that's going to come in with some intensity and determination to try to get over the hump," Smith said. "They say its tough to beat any team three times. Now we're going to try to beat a team four times, and it's not going to be an easy task."
The Bull Run District tournament starts Monday with fourth-seeded Central hosting fifth-seeded Strasburg. The two teams have played twice this season, including earlier this week. The Falcons swept both meetings, but will have a difficult challenge ahead of them.
In Tuesday's 12-9 Central win, the two teams combined for 25 hits, and the Rams had the tying run at the plate in the seventh inning.
Strasburg is hitting around .400 as a team this season, and is averaging 7.5 runs per game. The Falcons counter with a solid combination of pitching and hitting. Central junior Sydney Plum leads the area with seven home runs and 26 RBIs, while also having a 6-1 record in the circle. Central scored a combined 21 runs in two games with third-seeded William Monroe and Strasburg on Monday and Tuesday.
Madison County is the top seed for the tournament, and would likely be the semifinal opponent for the winner of the Strasburg-Central matchup. The winner of the Strasburg-Central game will put themselves in better shape for a regional berth, while the loser would probably be eliminated.
Stonewall Jackson will be the eighth seed in the Shenandoah District tournament on Friday. They will play at top-seeded Page County on Friday in the quarterfinals. The Generals lost 8-0 to the Panthers last week, one of the few games that has went the distance for the winless Generals.
The Evergreen District tournament will start on Monday, and Warren County's fate is still up in the air. The Wildcats still have a few games left this week that will determine if they make it into the tournament, which only takes the top four teams.
If the Wildcats can beat Liberty on the road today they will secure a spot in the tournament. Warren County beat Liberty, 8-3, at home on Monday. They followed that up with a 10-0 win over Brentsville on Tuesday.
"I told the kids before the game that it was a do-or-die game," Warren County coach Justin Stock said of Monday's victory. "They responded. They came out and scored four in the first. We played very tough against a strong Fauquier team, and then performed very well against Liberty. I was proud that we started smacking the ball around."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org