By Tommy Keeler Jr.
LYNCHBURG -- Losing most of its starting lineup from last year's squad, Sherando's baseball team knew it would be an uphill climb to get back to the state tournament this year. Still, seniors Reid Entsminger and Chase Smallwood were determined to lead the effort to get back and they accomplished it this season.
The Warriors won the Group AA state title last year, and even though they lost 6-2 in the state semifinals to Hanover on Friday everyone on the team was proud of the season they had.
"Chase and I, we just wanted to take our team back to the state tournament," Entsminger said. "We knew it was a longshot, but we pulled through and we made it happen."
Entsminger and Smallwood were the only two senior starters back from last year's team, and two of only four returning players overall.
The pair clearly led the way this season with a relatively inexperienced team, which included seven seniors, and started off slowly this year before hitting their stride in the playoffs.
"We knew this year we were going to have to lead the team," Entsminger said. "We were going to have to be the leaders and take charge, and that's what we did."
Zach Henke, Hayden Fox, Marcus Painter, Rennie Marchi, Trent Marchi and Jordan Clark were the other seniors, all of whom had their moments throughout the season.
Fox had a big moment in the state semifinals, as he drove in two runs with a single in the top of the fifth.
"My last season, I wanted to go out with a bang, and I think I did that," Fox said.
Clearly the big senior cogs to the team this season were Entsminger and Smallwood, who were both four-year starters.
"Chase, he is irreplaceable," Sherando coach Pepper Martin said. "That's no knock on any of our younger catchers coming up, because he knows the game. He's a baseball player. He's like another coach on the field."
Entsminger entered Friday's game with a streak of five games with either a home run or a triple, including three homers.
Martin said Entsminger is one of the most clutch players he's been around.
"In his four-year career he's probably gotten more big hits, hits that have charged the team up or that has rejuvenated them or that has won games in walk-off fashion [than anyone in school history]," Martin said. "That kid has ice water running through his veins. Had it not been for what he accomplished in the postseason, we wouldn't be here right now."
Entsminger and Smallwood were two of only four players to reach the state semifinals in back-to-back seasons for the Warriors.
Smallwood said he is also very proud to be a part of the group of seniors this season.
"We wanted it. We knew what it took, Smallwood said. "We all just worked hard. We all loved each other. It's just one great senior group. I wouldn't want to have to spend it with anybody else."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or email@example.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd