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Posted April 25, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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SU baseball team vying for tournament berth

Daily Staff Reports

Call it "May Madness."

Next Sunday, May 3, the Shenandoah University baseball team will anxiously await its postseason fate. Just like the NCAA basketball tournament that comes along every March, the Division III baseball tournament, made up of 54 teams, will have a selection process to determine which teams get in.

For the first time ever, the Hornets could get the invite.

"I think we're going to be in very, very good shape," said Scott Musa, SU's sports information director and assistant athletic director.

Shenandoah, winner of a school-record 32 games (and counting) this season, has two games remaining: at Wesley today and at Frostburg State on Wednesday. Both teams are tournament-caliber teams that could solidify the Hornets' place in the tournament field.

According to Musa, there are three pools that make up the tournament field. Pool A is comprised of teams that receive an automatic berth, like N.C. Wesleyan did by beating Shenandoah in the USA South tournament championship game last weekend. Pool B is dedicated to independent schools that don't get an automatic berth through conference affiliation. Pool C is for at-large berths -- Musa said there will be 14 at-large berths this year.

"We probably need to be in the top four in our region," he said.

The NCAA South Region rankings were revealed on Thursday, with SU coming in at No. 3. That puts the Hornets on the inside of the at-large bubble for now, but as Musa repeated over and over, wins in the final two games would likely eliminate the possibility of a snub.

Or take a little bit of the selection madness out of the program's rare trip into May.

* * *

After teaching and coaching at Randoph-Macon Academy for seven years, athletic director Sylvio Brutus is leaving.

"Being here at R-MA ... has truly been a blessing," Brutus said. "I'm very grateful for the opportunities here, for being able to teach from U.S. history to government to becoming A.D. and coaching several sports.

"I think that it's time for me to move on."

Brutus is moving back to Florida, where he grew up, and where Brutus said he will have "a few options and a few opportunities to continue" his career in education.

Brutus will be replaced by now assistant athletic director and head football coach Frank Sullivan.

"I have complete confidence and faith that Frank will continue to improve and take our athletic program to another level," Brutus said.

In addition to his duties as athletic director, Brutus was also the boys basketball coach. His career at R-MA was his first in education.

* * *

Like so many Warriors before her, Sherando senior Molly Hopkins will be playing Division II soccer next year at Concord University.

"My best friend [Nicole Dirnagl] went there so I looked at it," Hopkins said. "I looked at a couple different places, but when I went to visit, the girls were really nice and the coach was really nice."

Hopkins also looked at Bridgewater and Mary Washington, but when Hopkins spent a night with the Concord team in Athens, W.Va., at Dirnagl's suggestion, she was sold on the school.

It wasn't long before Concord offered Hopkins a soccer scholarship, the seventh Warrior to pull off the feat in the last decade.

Jenny Cleland, Sherando's second all-time scorer, graduated from Concord in 2008.

Nikki Rhodes and Jesse Sites will play Division III soccer next season at Lynchburg and Bridgewater, respectively.

"It's exciting," said Sherando coach Rob Kilmer, explaining that he will make a point to see the girls play at the next level. "All three have worked so hard and they deserve it.

"They're fabulous girls, they've been fabulous for the program -- workhorses for the program. They're some of the top players that have ever come from this program.

* * *

It's been a tough first year for Millbrook baseball coach Mike Smith.

The Pioneers (4-10, 2-9 Northwestern) have had to deal with several injuries. Zak Butler has been out for most of the season with an injury and Quinn Courtney has missed the last three games with an elbow injury.

Smith has had to move up several players from the JV team to fill in the spots, making a young squad even younger.

"The kids are working hard and they're trying hard," Smith said. "Hopefully we'll get some momentum here at the end of the season and finish the season on a positive note."

To make matters worse, Smith missed two games earlier this season because he was in the hospital. Smith said he wasn't feeling well toward the end of March and he had a heart catheterization done. The doctors discovered he had 90 percent heart blockage and put a stent in. Smith said it was definitely a wake-up call to make sure he takes good care of himself.

"At the age of 46 you just don't think about things like that," Smith said. "It definitely makes you more aware of things. I'm feeling good now and I'm glad to be back out here."

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