Grassfield, First Colonial cruising
Western Branch fell from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 6-4 loss to Woodside on Saturday, leaving South Hampton Roads without an undefeated team.
So who’s the hottest team in Tidewater? First Colonial and Grassfield can make pretty good cases.
The Grizzlies have won seven straight, including six since the abrupt departure of coach Shaun Todd, who was replaced by assistant Bret Lieberman took over. Grassfield has allowed just six runs during its winning streak, and the Grizzlies have plated 43 runs in their past five games.
Grassfield’s lineup has four batters hitting .400 or higher: Dwight Riddick (.432), Mikey Lasko (.429), Andrew Bullock (.426), Max Burcham (.400). Meanwhile Brett Smith (0.81 ERA, 31 Ks) and Garrett Stallings (1.17 ERA, 38 Ks) have paced the Grizzlies on the mound.
At First Colonial, coach Scott Stubbe’s team has kept winning by hanging on in some close games. The Patriots’ seven-game streak includes five one-run victories. A pitching staff that includes Bodie Sheehan (1.88 ERA, 22.3 IP), Matt Rosen (1.37 ERA, 20.3 IP), John Flye (0.45, 15.1 IP) and Jake Curran (0.00 ERA in 13.1 IP) has helped. Justin Cook (.432 BA) and Joey Brown (.406 BA) have paced the First Colonial lineup.
Maury’s Joe Jackson mashed three home runs – including two grand slams - in a win over Norview on Friday. Jackson, a senior catcher, raised his batting average to .500 and has five homers and 21 RBIs.
For some other notable stats, provided by area coaches, click here.
Extra bases …
Maury and First Colonial will play a Game for the Cure on May 14 at 5 p.m. at Maury. The game will raise funds for the American Cancer Society. … While most have played conference games for weeks, teams in the Monitor-Merrimac Conference teams get started this week. Most of those teams – including Great Bridge, Hampton, Hickory and Indian River – enter this week at 0-0 in conference play. Wondering how the playoffs will look under the VHSL’s reclassification? Click here.
- Jami Frankenberry
Big week for Harris
Greenbrier Christian senior Kayla Harris accomplished in a week what many players do for a season when she totaled 20 RBIs, 15 hits and five homers in five games.
“I don’t know what was going on this week but this was probably the best week I have ever had,” said Harris, who had three homers – including two grand slams – and 12 RBIs against Norfolk Collegiate. “I felt really good. Last season I never had a week where I just kept hitting and hitting.”
For the season, Harris is batting .604 with 48 RBIs and 28 runs.
Great Bridge still No. 1
Great Bridge and Greenbrier Christian have been two of the top softball programs in the state for several seasons.
But the two schools haven’t met, until Saturday when the top-ranked Wildcats beat then-No.3 Greenbrier Christian 6-1 in a much-anticipated match-up.
“We were really ready for them and we wanted to beat them so bad,” said Great Bridge pitcher Sydney Harless. “We just had to go out there and have fun and do the best we can.”
Harless yielded two hits and no walks with five strikeouts to improve to 10-0 on the season.
The Wildcats, the 2013 Group AAA state champions, are now focused on winning a Group 5A state title.
“We’re ready,” Harless said, “but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Big matchup: No. 7 Landstown (8-3) at No. 2 First Colonial (10-1) in a Conference 1 showdown. The Patriots are unbeaten in conference play. Their lone loss this season was to top-ranked Great Bridge.
- Larry Rubama
Cox employs unique strategy
There’s a method to Cox coach Eric Blackmore’s apparent madness.
In an unusual substitution twist, Blackmore switches out his two goalkeepers several times during a match.
“It really isn’t born out of anything other than keeping both goal keepers keyed into each game,” Blackmore said. “It is our best way to evaluate them to determine who will be the fulltime starter once Conference 1 games begin.”
Sophomore Brad Creamer has been sharing time with senior Cullen Hudgins. Creamer is easy to pick out. He’s the guy who wears protective head gear on advice from his doctor after suffering a concussion last year.
Blackmore’s task of selecting a starter is a difficult one.
“Since both goal keepers are very similar in ability with some different qualities and nuances in their game, we are using the game as the priority evaluation tool for them,” he said. “Having them rotate in matches also gives our team great familiarity with them in match moments.
“I think you can see that our team trusts both of them. We are very lucky to have the two of them.”
Off to college
Bayside’s Kendall McIntosh has verbally committed to play for Radford University.
The senior is believed by his coach, Matt Bright, to be the Marlins’ first Division I player.
McIntosh, who plays midfield and forward, has eight goals and four assists so far this year for 3-1 Bayside. In his varsity career, he has a to-date total of 26 goals and 19 assists.
If forecasts of rain throughout the week don’t mess things up, there are a few promising match-ups on tap for this week. Oscar Smith travels to Kecoughtan today (Tuesday) for a 3 p.m. Conference 2 showdown.
A pair of matches featuring top 10 teams are on tap Friday. Top-ranked Landstown visits No. 8 First Colonial and No. 4 Cox is at second-ranked Ocean Lakes. Both matches are at 7:15 p.m.
- Lee Tolliver
Grassfield stock rising
Maddie Neidig’s sixth goal of the season gave Grassfield a lead over a potential Group 6A state contender. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, they surrendered their 1-0 lead over No. 1 Cox in the second half and salvaged a tie, but the statement was made.
Perhaps Grassfield is a legitimate threat in the Group 6A conversation.
“We’ve played in Cox in the past and the attitude is, ‘Oh my God, it’s Cox,’” Grassfield coach Kevin Ellis said. “I didn’t sense any of that today.”
Grassfield was unranked in the South Hampton Roads preseason rankings but eventually jumped to No. 10, then No. 9 and now No. 4.
The Grizzlies beat upstarts King’s Fork and Nansemond River, dropped an overtime decision against No. 9 Hickory then beat Western Branch, Oscar Smith and then-No. 5 Great Bridge.
While Cox held most of the possession, Grassfield held its own, picking up two or three key saves from Caren Cowley. She had five total.
Neidig scored in the 39th minute when Sydney Phillips dropped in a free kick that was mishandled, allowing Neidig to poke it in.
Cox tied it in the 62nd minute when Alex Brewer deflected in a cross.
“I think the result in the end was fair,” Ellis said.
Kempsville finally healthy
A two-week bout with stomach illness crippled Kempsville as many starters were sidelined.
During that time, the Chiefs lost to No. 8 Ocean Lakes 6-1 and scraped out a 3-2 win over Tallwood.
But with everyone back after a much-needed spring break, Kempsville impressed in a 6-2 win over Bayside. The Chiefs were leading No. 5 Landstown 1-0 before weather postponed the 48 minutes.
The game will resume May 12 with 7:59 left in the first half.
The season outlook is brighter “as long as we stay healthy,” Kempsville coach Lauren Loyd said. “I told the girls we have three seasons: preseason, regular season and postseason.”
Senior Alex Bramble was supposed to start at defense this season but her scoring touch has been too much to ignore. She has 11 of Kempsville’s 16 goals.
“Early on in the season, we were struggling to find goal scorers,” Loyd said. “She was a natural one so we parked her up top and she took the load on her shoulders until the girls are healthy.”
Bramble, senior Taylor Russ and junior Heather Miles have provided a solid core around a group of three to four freshmen starters, which should have Kempsville competing for years to come.
- Ray Nimmo
Unbeatens to collide at Kempsville
There are only two boys tennis players in South Hampton Roads who have played regularly at Court One and still hold unblemished records this season.
After Wednesday night — weather permitting — that number will be down to one.
Princess Anne sophomore Robert Levin (7-0) and Kempsville senior Mark Williams (6-0) will put their perfect seasons on the line at Kempsville High.
A tale of the tape gives Williams a slight edge, while Levin’s team should get the final laugh. Since a challenging season-opener that saw him muster a 6-3, 7-5 win over Cox’s Joey Maddox, Williams has dropped a total of four games in his last five matches.
Levin’s most stern test to date came in a 6-3, 6-3 win over First Colonial’s Paul Ritter. Two weeks later, Williams beat Ritter 6-1, 6-2. Against their other three common opponents, Williams has dropped just one game, while Levin has lost three games.
That razor-thin difference in performance could be what separates the two teams in their attempt to take early control of Conference 9.
Since losing to Ocean Lakes (7-2) and Cox (5-4) to start the season, the Chiefs have won four straight heading into their conference opener. The Cavaliers (6-1, 1-0) have won six consecutive matches following a 6-3 loss to Ocean Lakes to start the season.
Read about Grassfield No. 1 Alina Creamer in this week’s Varsity profile.
Boys Starting Six
1. Norfolk Academy
2. Cape Henry
3. Western Branch
4. Norfolk Collegiate
5. Ocean Lakes
6. Princess Anne
Girls Starting Six
1. Cape Henry
3. Norfolk Academy
4. Norfolk Collegiate
6. Princess Anne
- Paul Eldert
TRACK AND FIELD
Top Tallwood athlete misses Penn Relays
Tallwood senior Steven Dunbar was looking forward to the Penn Relays last week in Philadelphia.
But Dunbar, one of the nation’s top high jumpers, didn’t attend because it interfered with snow makeup days in Virginia Beach. Virginia Beach City Public Schools had the last of its three snow days on Saturday, which was the day Dunbar was scheduled to compete.
“The group he would have traveled with up there was leaving on Wednesday so he would have missed four days of school,” said Tallwood coach Caitlin Stravino. “He couldn’t miss that many days and make up all that work. He was disappointed but understood.”
Dunbar, who signed with North Carolina on a track scholarship, did get to compete in a big meet this season thanks to his cousin, Olympic gymnastic gold medalist Gabby Douglas. She flew him out to Los Angeles for the Arcadia Invitational.
Dunbar won the meet with a leap of 7 feet, which is ranked No. 1 in the state this season and tied for fourth nationally.
“When he won that meet," Stravino said, "he kind of felt like he got his one big meet in before the state meet."
The Group 6A state track meet is June 6-7 at Todd Stadium.
Standouts last week
Nansemond River coach Justin Byron and Western Branch coach Claude Toukene were pleased with their team’s performances at the Penn Relays over the weekend.
Nansemond River thrower Zakiya Rashid took fourth in the discus and also ran on the 400 relay, which finished second in the Small Schools Championship.
“Prior to this meet Zakiya’s best was 134-10,” Byron said. “For her to come to a major meet with international competition and throw 145-7 is extremely special."
Toukene also had several athletes do well. The 3,200 relay team placed fourth in the Championship of America final with a time of 9 minutes, 3.76 seconds, one of the fastest times in the nation this season. The Bruins also placed second in the girls 400 relay Large Schools final and eighth in the boys 400 relay Large Schools final.
Funlayo Oluwole was third in the triple jump. And Milan Parks and Jewell Smith finished fourth and eighth, respectively, in the long jump.
“I am very pleased with the effort,” Toukene said. “In terms of performance, we are not where we need to be, but we are definitely heading in the right direction.”
Several local athletes competed at the MileStat.com Track Classic in Richmond.
Leading the way was Kempsville sophomore Morgan Towe, who won the 100 and finished runner-up in the 200.
Hickory’s Andrew Eason was second in the 3,200; Princess Anne’s Chandace Golden was second in the shot put; Deep Creek’s Alexis Ford was second in the discus; Norfolk Academy’s Grant Wiggins was third in 1,600 and teammate Josh Freeman was third in the 200; And Kempsville’s Justin Howlett was third in the discus.
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