High school teams reach home stretch as state tournament heats up | High school


In Jefferson Forest, a defensive-minded baseball team is playing its first state tournament in seven years.

In Appomattox, the baseball and softball teams are on fire, backed by solid play in all facets of the game.

At EC Glass, a men’s lacrosse team faces a tough test this week but is determined to follow the game plan that could get them back to the state championship game for the fifth straight season.

And in Liberty Christian, a battered baseball team is trying to win its second state championship in five years.

Welcome to State Tournament Time, the final week of the season where teams gamble in search of trophies, rings, and the glory of winning it all.

Eight teams and three individual tennis stars from Lynchburg and surrounding counties are still in the game.

In Appomattox, the softball team is aiming for its second straight state title. But the baseball team (20-1) has also had tremendous success. The Raiders have won nine double-digit wins this season, and last week they picked up a behind-the-scenes win over Chatham, 8-7, to clinch a state championship berth. They then spanked Alleghany 14-0 to claim the 2C Region Championship. Now they will host Gate City in the Class 2 quarter-final round at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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“Every group has its ups and downs, and we certainly had ours,” coach Joe Caruso said. “But these guys never give up. They’re so resilient. They’re a team. It’s been a blessing coaching them.”

It was do or die against Dogwood District foes Chatham last week, and Caruso rallied his club in the bottom of the seventh. The two teams exchanged blows throughout the game. heading into its batting final, Appomattox trailed 7-5.

“We said to the guys, ‘If there’s one team I’d like to be two behind, it’s you guys. And they responded.”

The Raiders are entering the state tournament for the first time since 2019, mostly because they perform well in all facets of the game. “Anything you want as a baseball coach,” is how Caruso described the talented group.

The stats are off the charts. Leadoff batter Trey Shrock, a catcher who can steal bases, is hitting about .460. No. 2 Nate Dillon is coming off a strong regional tournament win and is also hitting over .400. Alex Caruso is averaging .420 and has 30 RBIs. Then there’s Hunter Garrett, who kicked off the seventh inning rally in the regional semifinal and went 4-for-4 with seven RBIs in the regional championship.

At Jefferson Forest, the baseball team (20-4) takes on Millbrook in the Class 4 quarterfinals Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Cavaliers showed resilience throughout regional play, winning 2-1 over Western Albemarle, 2-0 over Orange County and 2-1. against Salem. Defending and locking has been a recipe for regular season success. More of the same was on display in three regional games.

“The games were tight and we found a way to win,” coach Ryan Gilleland said. “I think their confidence is high.”

On Monday, Peyton Smith senior was named 4D Region Player of the Year, and Gilleland took home Coach of the Year honors.

Gilleland recalled Smith’s evolution as a member of the upper class. In the fall of his junior year, after pitching for his traveling team all summer, Smith approached his coach. He said he thought he was just a pitcher and couldn’t contribute with the bat.

“I said, ‘Peyton, we don’t have these [types of players] in our program. We need you to strike,” Gilleland said. “And he really stepped up. His confidence swinging the bat was a big part of our offense. »

At EC Glass, the men’s lacrosse team (15-3) will face Mechanicsville-based Atlee (16-2) in Wednesday’s Class 4 semifinal. The game will be played at Glass and will start at 6:30 p.m.

“We obviously work to get to this point every year,” head coach Eddie Ranuska said. “We have a big test coming up, so we’re looking forward to it.”

The Hilltoppers won a 10-9 thriller over Western Albemarle on Saturday in the state quarterfinals. It was “not our best performance,” Ranuska added. “We faced a little adversity, and we managed to overcome it.”

Atlee beat Salem 21-11 in the state quarterfinals and also won the Region 4A title 20-11 against Western Albemarle.

“It’s going to be one of those games where we have to play four quarters and execute our plan,” Ranuska added. “But we know we have a very tough opponent. … We know we’ve come up with a plan that will put us in the best position to win. I think the boys want to leave everything on the pitch, but they’re not. not yet ready to finish the season.”

The ACL baseball team (20-2) shut out Spotswood last week to win the 3C Region Championship after shutting out Rustburg in the Region Semifinals. The Bulldogs host Christiansburg at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Other teams still playing include: Appomattox Softball, which faces Tazewell on Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the Class 2 state quarterfinals; Jefferson Forest Boys’ Football, which travels to Tuscarora for a Class 4 quarter-final game on Tuesday at 7:45 p.m.; Altavista Women’s Soccer, which travels to West Point for the Class 1 quarterfinal on Tuesday at 6 p.m.; and ACL Women’s Soccer, which plays Hidden Valley on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in a Class 3 quarter-final match.

Also still in play: EC Glass tennis standout Spencer Knight, who will compete in the Class 4 singles tournament at 10 a.m. Thursday at Huntington Park in Newport News. ACL singles player No. 1 Catherine Mowry plays at noon Friday in the Class 3 singles semifinals at Virginia Tech. She and doubles partner Carla Fernandez-Fournier take to the court in the Class 3 doubles semifinals at 3 p.m. Thursday.

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