Athlete of the Week: Somers answers important question for Stonewall ahead of state tournament
NEW MARKET – The day before Stonewall Jackson High School’s baseball team took the field against Windsor in the Region 1A East championship game last Friday, head coach Mike Lenox said he wanted to use the contest as an opportunity to answer an important question heading into this weekend’s state tournament.
Lenox already knew what he had in senior Cole Holsinger and junior Nick Dotson, the Generals’ two workhorses on the mound this season. But if Stonewall were to find it necessary to dig deeper into its pitching staff, whom could Lenox place on the mound in a high-stakes situation?
Tyler Somers, the Generals’ lightly used No. 3 starting pitcher and full-time third baseman, provided the answer last Friday at Windsor, albeit in a 2-0 defeat.
“I think he threw the best I’ve seen him throw all year,” Lenox said Tuesday of Somers’ performance. “He just was aggressive. He attacked. That’s a good team that he pitched to and maybe one iffy call at first base and that (fifth inning is) over with. But you know, that was a big game there, so if push comes to shove and Cole needs to come out or somebody, I have somebody that I can feel comfortable going to. That showed me that he can handle that situation there.”
Though Somers, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Athlete of the Week for May 29-June 4 suffered the loss – his third of the season in 10 appearances, including five starts – he kept in check a Windsor offense that entered the game averaging 11 runs per game over their previous nine contests.
The junior right-hander scattered five hits and two walks over six innings while striking out three. Windsor’s two runs off Somers both came in the bottom of the fifth inning, and the output was enough to back a one-hit effort by Dukes’ starting pitcher Zach Walsh.
“(I was) throwing strikes and just really letting the defense make the play,” said Somers, who has now thrown 21 2/3 innings for the Generals this spring. “I mean we’ve been really solid in the field, played a lot of games without errors here recently and that’s key. So really just throwing strikes, limiting the walks and letting the defense make the plays.
“It feels good because you might go periods where you’re not pitching some and when you get back out there, to still have your stuff is always a nice feeling.”
While Somers’ usage on the mound this season has been more sporadic, he’s been a mainstay at third base and in the top half of Stonewall’s batting order all spring.
Hitting primarily from the third spot, Somers, who bats left-handed, is batting .343 (23-for-67) with seven doubles, two triples, 14 RBIs, 14 runs scored and seven steals. His batting average is tied with Holsinger for the Generals’ second-best mark this season.
“Just trying to keep it line drives, maybe middle to opposite field over to left. Just poke them into play and get the job,” Somers said of his approach at the plate.
“Just not really trying to hit it, just staying focused on what you need to do instead of putting so much pressure (on yourself), just stay loose and have fun. It just happened that a lot of hits have come this year.”
Somers tallied three hits, three RBIs and two runs scored over the Generals’ three regional tournament games last week. All three of his hits and two of those RBIs came in Stonewall’s 13-0 win over Lancaster in the Region 1A East semifinals last Wednesday, a win that awarded the General their first-ever state tournament appearance. He also had an RBI on a sacrifice fly in a 4-3 win over Central-Lunenburg in the quarterfinals.
Lenox said the key to Somers’ production has been the junior’s ability to hit balls the other way.
“He was striking out a little bit more than I would like him to at the beginning of the year but towards the end he’s putting the ball in play hard now,” Lenox said. “I think he’s just focusing on the middle and keeping things away and that’s changed him completely.”
Lenox added that in addition to Somers’ production at the plate and on the mound, the junior brings to the table something that not all high school athletes possess.
“He’s competitive,” Lenox said. “Tyler wants to get after it. When things are tough he wants to stay out there, he wants to get after it. He’s just a competitor and this day a lot of kids don’t have that edge and that’s something you can’t teach. But he’s kind of fearless. He just wants to get up there and get it done. And I think that has kind of separated him in terms of when it’s a crucial situation he wants to be there. I think it’s just his confidence now has grown and he’s just a hard-working kid.”
Stonewall Jackson will take on Eastside High in the Virginia High School League Group 1A state tournament semifinals at 10 a.m. Friday at Calfee Park in Pulaski.