Northwood softball coach B.J. Buchanan was loading up the team’s van with equipment on Thursday when he got the news that his travel plans had been altered in a major way.
The Virginia High School League issued a series of press releases around noon on Thursday announcing that the state semifinals and finals in Class 1, Class 2, Class 3 and Class 4 baseball and softball had been rescheduled for June 13 and 14 in the New River Valley.
The semifinals and finals were originally scheduled for June 7 and 8.
“It was really surprising,” Buchanan said. “I had 13 young ladies ready to roll and they were unhappy.”
The steady rain forecasted to fall in the Roanoke area led to the changes, which included some venue switches. The semifinals and finals for Class 1 and 2 baseball will be held at Pulaski’s Calfee Park, while the semifinals for Class 1 and 2 softball will take place at Radford University.
Times are expected to be finalized today for the Class 1 baseball semifinals (Patrick Henry vs. Lancaster; Auburn vs. Riverheads), Class 2 baseball semifinals (Lebanon vs. Page County; Chatham vs. Stuarts Draft), Class 1 softball semifinals (Northwood vs. Rappahannock County; Auburn vs. Riverheads) and Class 2 softball semifinals (Lebanon vs. Madison County; Richlands vs. Page County).
“Ain’t nothing you can do about the rain,” said Lebanon baseball coach Doc Adams. “That’s the Lord’s work. I am just sitting here right now [on Thursday evening] working on a scouting report and I know more about [semifinal opponent Page County] than I did two hours ago. You have to make the best of it.”
The rescheduling means that in all likelihood a dream pitching matchup between Lebanon’s Matthew Buchanan and Page County’s T.R. Williams will occur on the baseball diamond.
Buchanan, a sophomore left-hander who has committed to the University of Virginia, is 11-0. He tossed five innings of one-run ball in Tuesday’s 15-1 state quarterfinal beatdown of Appomattox and would not have been available Friday due to the VHSL’s pitch-count limits.
Williams, a sophomore left-hander who has committed to Virginia Tech, is 8-2 with a 0.63 ERA and has struck out 127 batters in 66 2/3 innings. He threw 91 pitches over the course of six innings in Tuesday’s 8-3 quarterfinal conquering of King William.
“We figured we were going to see their No. 2 pitcher [either Caleb Hilliard or Chase Combs] against our No. 2 pitcher [Cole Stoots], but I am sure we’ll see Williams Thursday and they’ll probably see our best too,” Adams said. “I can’t let them throw Williams and not throw [Buchanan]. That’d be like somebody running a thoroughbred and the guy he was racing against picking a filly.”
A similar scenario is shaping up in Patrick Henry’s semifinal baseball showdown with Lancaster. Left-handed ace pitcher Isaac Eldreth will be a full strength for PH, as will James Madison University signee Matthew Kleinfelter of Lancaster.
“Their No. 2 was a left-hander and we had been preparing to face him,” said Patrick Henry coach Tommy Thomas. “We are guessing we will see the kid going to JMU now.”
The other challenge facing coaches is how to keep their teams sharp and in a routine. State quarterfinal games were played June 4 and the semifinals will be nine days later.
“It will be tough to go a week without playing a game,” said Richlands softball coach Ronnie Davis. “Now we have to refocus on the opportunity to work and get better. We will have to do a lot of game situations and intrasquad scrimmages. The good thing is we get to face one of the better pitchers in the state [Richlands ace Mac Osborne] during practice.”
As B.J. Buchanan pointed out, it could’ve been worse.
“Rappahannock County’s in the same boat,” Buchanan said. “I would rather them push back the semifinals and finals than have went up there, played a semifinal game and then if we would have won had to wait eight days to play the finals,” Buchanan said. “That would have been awful.”
It is not the first time during the 2018-19 school year that a local school has dealt with a state tournament rearrangement. Patrick Henry’s Class 1 state volleyball title match against Riverheads – a contest the Rebels won – was postponed by four days due to winter weather.
This will not be the latest a local baseball or softball squad has played into June in the hunt for a state title either. Virginia High beat Turner Ashby on June 18, 1993 in Bristol to win the VHSL Group AA state baseball championship.
In sports that rely heavily on strategy, the schedule shuffling adds to the equation.
“It resets everything,” Adams said. “I think it’s going to come down to who can keep their kids focused.”
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