Keeler: Warriors had a special season

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

Sherando’s baseball team may have went mostly untested throughout the regular season, but throughout the playoffs the Warriors showed without a doubt they were the best team in the state.

There was simply something special about the Warriors this season as they won the program’s first state title.

There were a lot of things that made them the best Group AA team in the state, and most of those qualities showed up throughout their incredible playoff run.

Certainly they had the heart of a champion. The Warriors never gave up, no matter what the score was. In the Region II quarterfinals, they survived a 13-inning, 1-0 game against Loudoun Valley — a game in which they used both of their aces.

Then they came back in the Region II semifinals and rallied for an eight-inning, 5-4 win over defending state champion Powhatan. The Warriors trailed going into the bottom of the eighth, but scored two runs to win the game.

They rallied from 2-0 down to beat Woodgrove in the Region II final, and then rallied from a 2-1 deficit against Culpeper in the state quarterfinals. Again in the state semifinals they trailed early, and rallied for a 4-2 win over previously undefeated Amherst.

In Sunday’s state final with Tunstall, the Warriors didn’t trail. However, after the Trojans had tied the game up at 1-1, the Warriors responded to win 2-1.

To be able to come from behind in practically every postseason game is almost like something out of a Hollywood movie. To do it again and again shows what character the team had and the confidence they had. The Warriors always believed in themselves.

“This team is not a cocky team, never has been,” Martin said after Sunday’s state final. “But they are brimming with confidence. They have confidence in themselves. They have confidence in one another. They know if we have one out left in the game, we still have an opportunity to win. They’re patient. They don’t push the panic button. But when they get the opportunity, they make the most of it. They’ve been like that all season.”

Sherando’s baseball team had a little bit of everything. They had a solid defense, good hitters one-through-nine, and a good pitching staff. They were a complete team.

In every game the defense, hitting and pitching came through in a big way, and the players knew they could count on each other. They had confidence in each other even at the beginning of the season.

“We knew we could accomplish it from the beginning of the season,” Sherando senior Taylor Loudan said. “It was a matter of getting it done. We came out and got it done every single game of the postseason.”

For the six seniors — Loudan, John Bentley, Justin Angel, Scottie Nicholson, Jacob Carney and Jeb Brown — it was the perfect way to end their high school careers.

“That’s something that I wanted to do all season,” Carney said of winning the state title. “We worked every day on everything just to get to where we are now.”

Of course, no great team is worth anything without a great leader. Martin and his staff did a great job keeping the players focused and making all the right moves when needed.

Martin was quick to say after the game that the state title wasn’t about him, it was about the players.

“I feel the most excitement for the kids, for the players,” Martin said. “This is their state championship. Yeah, the coaching staff had a part in it, but this is for them. I wanted them to enjoy it and treasure it.

“It’s something that a lot of high school athletes have never been able to experience. Our players are experiencing it right now.”

The Warriors finished with a 26-1 record, and won their last 14 games. They had plenty of fan support in the state semifinals and finals. It was clear as the postseason went on that many in the area had embraced the team and went along with them on a fun ride to the state title.

This was the last year that the Group A and AA teams will play in Radford for the spring jubilee. Next year things will be more spread out, but I can’t think of a better way for it to have come to an end than with a local team capturing a state title.

For Sherando and the entire local area it was a perfect ending, and one that will be remembered for many years to come.

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com