There are many tales to be told about Abingdon High School’s 1984 baseball team.
The one recounted the most – and you’ve probably heard it – came when Trey McCall of the Falcons unleashed a mighty swing on a spring evening 35 years ago at DeVault Stadium in Bristol.
The trajectory was majestic as the ball he blasted disappeared somewhere past the pine trees looming beyond the center-field fence.
“Story goes that the ball he hit hasn’t landed yet,” said John Kuczko, the head coach of the Falcons at the time. “The pine trees in center field have grown over the last 35 years and so has the story of that ball being hit over the top of those pine trees. Truth is, I have not gone to back to DeVault Stadium for any game since – as a coach or just a spectator – that Trey’s home run there has not been mentioned. One of those great high school stories that legends are made from.”
Steve Bawden of the Bristol Herald Courier estimated the bomb as a 430-foot shot. It was a prodigious clout no matter what the measurement.
“I was on second base when Trey hit that home run, so I had a far different perspective than others,” said Jeff Necessary, a senior for AHS in ‘84. “I grew up watching the Bristol Tigers. I remember future Detroit Tiger Lance Parrish once hit one onto the Little League field beyond the left-field fence. Also, a not so well known future Detroit Tiger named Tim Corcoran hit one over the road and hit a house in right field. Trey’s home run was farther than either of those, at least in my opinion. We didn’t know what to say other than, ‘Wow.’ “
That word was used a lot that season as Abingdon rolled up a 22-2 record, claimed the first Region IV championship in program history and finished as VHSL Group AA state runner-up.
The team returned six starters from a squad that had gone 12-5 in 1983 and also gained the services of Necessary, who transferred from Patrick Henry.
“Those guys accepted me with open arms,” Necessary said. “They could’ve seen me as the outsider as sometimes happens with transfers and not welcomed me. That was never the case.”
Necessary hit seven homers – three of which were grand slams – and had a batting average above .500. McCall, a junior at the time, was a masher.
Kevin Ramey, David Nunley, Rusty Johnson, Anthony Hines, Todd Chester, Kevin Price and Brian Jackson were also part of a lineup that had few weaknesses.
Then there was the pitching as Steve Lowe, Darrell Sword and Necessary comprised a staff that was downright dominant at times.
Lowe finished with an 11-0 record and an ERA under one.
“The thing I remember about that pitching staff is that they all threw strikes,” Kuczko said. “They very rarely walked batters. Steve Lowe could hit his spots as good as any high school pitcher that I have seen. He was a strike-throwing machine. … Necessary had all the pitches, fastball in the mid-80s, great 6-to-12 curve and also had very good control. Darrell Sword was a left-handed pitcher that was just wild enough to be very effective.”
Darrin Matthews can vouch for Abingdon’s overall strength. He had Carroll County’s only hit as the Cavaliers dropped an 8-1 decision to the Falcons in the Region IV tournament.
“That was an outstanding baseball team,” Matthews said. “We knew going into the game with them that they were very good. We knew that they could hit and score runs, but they were also a very solid defensive team with quality pitching. … The thing that stands out to me the most was how good they were defensively. They made some fantastic plays in the field against us.”
Abingdon only had one blemish to its record during the regular season.
“We lost at Richlands,” Necessary said. “It was one of those days that all teams face. We just couldn’t get started. I certainly mean no disrespect to Richlands, but honestly they shouldn’t have beat us. That loss might actually have helped us as the season went on. We realized we’d better be ready, physically and mentally.”
The Falcons beat Richlands in the finals of the Southwest District tourney to get a measure of revenge and followed that up by dispatching Carroll County and George Wythe in the Region IV tournament.
A 1-0 victory over Appomattox in the state semifinals was highlighted by Lowe’s one-hit shutout and Necessary’s solo homer in the third inning.
“It was a tough place to play,” Necessary said. “Poor facilities, dim lights and a not so welcoming crowd.”
The Falcons showed their maturity by winning on the road in the Region IV finals and in the state semifinals. The coaching staff had them ready.
“I don’t think our coaches ever got sufficient credit for that season,” Necessary said. “We were the ones getting the hits, throwing the pitches and making the plays defensively. John Kuczko and Jerry Mays were the ones putting it all together. They prepared us, motivated us and made winning fun. I’ll be forever grateful to them.”
It was not a happy ending for Abingdon as the Falcons dropped a 6-4 decision to Park View-Sterling in the state finals. AHS led 4-3 entering the bottom of the sixth inning, but the Patriots pushed across three runs with two outs.
Brian Paugh’s two-run homer off Necessary put Park View ahead, while Jeff Lageman followed with a solo homer of his own. That’s the same Jeff Lageman who spent a decade in the NFL as a defensive end with the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars.
“That was tough because I think we were a better team than Park View-Sterling. To this day, I accept responsibility for that loss,” Necessary said. “I should’ve gotten the job done, but I failed.”
Abingdon suffered a similarly stinging defeat in last year’s VHSL Class 3 state title game, a 13-8, eight-inning loss at the hands of Spotsylvania.
Those guys from 1984 could relate.
“I will remember it the rest of my life,” McCall said. “It does not mean that life doesn’t move on, but you will always remember how close you were to achieving a state championship.”
McCall would go on to play five seasons in the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system, while Necessary starred at King College (now King University) and is in the school’s athletic hall of fame.
In a neat twist, McCall is now the head baseball coach at Emory & Henry College and Kuczko is his assistant.
“The fact that I am now helping Trey McCall coach baseball at Emory & Henry shows what a special bond that team still has for each other,” Kuczko said.
Now, for a look at high school baseball moments which occurred this week in history:
April 18, 1958
Sam Allen stole home in the bottom of the seventh inning, giving Tennessee High a 5-4 victory over Elizabethton. … Joe Graham’s four hits led the way in East Stone Gap’s 10-4 pounding of Pound. … Jim Fritts hit a three-run homer and Earl Smithson pitched a one-hitter in Holston Valley’s 3-2 triumph over Ketron.
April 18, 1966
Larry Moody homered twice in Blountville’s 7-2 victory over Holston Valley. … Behind homers from Jeff Baker and Greg Carter, Gate City cruised to an 8-0 win over Dungannon. … Don Rector’s three RBIs helped Patrick Henry post a 7-6 triumph over Marion.
April 19, 1973
Tennessee High edged John Battle, 7-6, as Roger Rees drove in the winning run for the Vikings on a single in the bottom of the seventh inning. … Gate City swept Graham in a doubleheader by scores of 4-0 and 2-0 as there were a combined three no-hitters in the twinbill. Gate City’s Jeff Jones threw a no-no in the first game, while Dave Riner of the Blue Devils and Graham’s Brian McCoy both tossed no-hitters in the nightcap. Gate City scored its two runs in the second game thanks to two walks and two errors in the fourth inning. … Abingdon’s John Hannah struck out 11 in spinning a one-hitter as the Falcons flew past Patrick Henry, 4-0.
April 20, 1988
Mark Pierce, Brian Smith, Richard Sizemore and David Gibson homered in Appalachia’s 11-6 victory over Coeburn. … J.J. Kelly’s Lee Moulse pitched a three-hitter with 15 strikeouts as the Indians took an 8-2 victory over Clintwood. … Tennessee High topped Daniel Boone, 8-3, as Jimmy Shores connected for two home runs.
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