Seniors enjoy special final season

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

RADFORD — Most of Strasburg’s six seniors have been playing together since they were 5-years-old. On Saturday the group played together for the last time.

Even though their high school baseball careers ended with a 7-2 loss to Virginia in the Group 2A state final at Radford University, the players had much to be proud about.

“I can’t think of a better way, I mean obviously it would be nice to win, but going to the last game — state championship — with all your guys, it’s special too,” Strasburg senior Ian Baker.

Baker, along with Dwight Reynolds, Tyler Doman, Ryan Murphy and Ian Butler have come through Strasburg’s program from the time they were little.

It was only natural that a strong bond formed among the group.

“It’s a good group of guys,” Murphy said. “It was a pleasure playing with them.”

This season the group added a sixth member, as Evan Snapp transferred from Clarke County.

Snapp said the group made him feel just like he had been there all along.

“They made me feel like I belonged here from the first day I played here,” Snapp said. “They’ve all looked after me. They’ve tried to tell me what to do and what not to do, and how do things differently. It’s a different program than my other high schools. It’s a good program.

“They’re like family.”

Baker said that the seniors are not only close on the field, but off the field as well.

The seniors had been part of successful teams in the past, but this year the Rams wanted to do something even more special by making it to the state championship game.

Strasburg coach Jeff Smoot said the seniors led the way, and he saw a change in them from past seasons.

“Some of those kids have really matured,” Smoot said. “We have not always been completely happy with all of them’s work ethic. Their commitment, not just physical commitment, but psychological and mental commitment is not always exactly what we wanted until this year. Their work ethic and sense of purpose has been outstanding, and I think has allowed us to do what we’ve done.”

What the Rams did this season was make history. Strasburg reeled off a school-record 22 consecutive wins. The Rams won the Bull Run District regular season, conference and regional titles.

Advancing to the state championship game was a new experience for all of them, and one that they will certainly remember.

“This is a once in a lifetime experience,” Murphy said. “Not many people can play in the state championship game. I just took it all in. It’s just great to be here.”

Smoot said he hopes the experience will help the seniors down the road in life.

“We would like to hope that what our seniors would take out of this, on into their post high school careers, is what is possible to accomplish if you’re willing to commit to it and work at it and believe in it,” Smoot said. “Maybe this experience will benefit them somewhere down the road in their jobs, their marriage. That it carries beyond this. Because after all that really is what we’re trying to do is teach them skills that will benefit them after they get out of here.”

The six seniors were able to graduate together on the field on Friday in Salem. Even though the last game of their high school careers ended with a loss, they were able to walk off the field together being proud of what they had accomplished for the Strasburg program.

“Obviously, our goal at the beginning of the season was to get here. We worked hard all year, and that’s what we did,” Baker said. “We won the district, conference, region titles, so that’s a big plus for us. A good high note to remember.”

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd