Falcons' Baseball Season Ends In State Championship Loss

Published 3:47 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2013

COLONIAL HEIGHTS – The Fuqua School baseball team's bid to win its first Virginia Independent Schools Athletics Association Division III Baseball State title came up short with a 3-0 loss to in-conference opponent Tidewater Academy on Saturday at Shepherd Stadium in Colonial Heights.

The Falcons (15-8), who defeated another Virginia Commonwealth Conference opponent, Tidewater Academy, 5-3 on Friday afternoon at the same location, were held to just one hit in Saturday's championship game.

“Their pitcher did a good job of not giving our hitters anything good,” said Fuqua head coach Ted Cunningham. “We couldn't string anything together, like follow up a walk with a hit, which would've put more pressure on him.”

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In Saturday's championship game, Tidewater Academy scored one run in the third inning off of FS pitcher Davis Cyrus and another two in the fifth.

The runs in the fifth followed two rare judgment calls made by the plate and third base umpires. First, Fuqua batter Andy Ware was called out in the batter's box when the plate umpire ruled that he had interfered with the throw to first by the TA catcher, who was attempting to pick off Carter Cunningham, who had just been walked.

Though it was only the second out of the inning, it proved to take the wind out of the Falcons' sails, and split the heart of their batting order between two innings.

Tidewater put additional pressure on the Falcons in the top of the fifth. With one run already in, it looked like third baseman Antonio Gonzalez had recorded the third out of the inning in a race to the bag, but the third base umpire ruled that Gonzalez had interfered with the runner and knocked him out of the baseline.

“They're judgment calls,” said Cunningham. “Andy was trying to protect the plate and dipped down to chase a curve ball, and on that call at third, the umpire called it runner obstruction. He said that he got in the way of the runner.

Fuqua's Jai Jamerson led off the bottom of the sixth with a single, but Tidewater retired the 2-3-4 hitters to end any threat by the Falcons before it could begin. TA retired the final six Fuqua batters in order.

“You could tell their pitcher was tiring, because we were able to work the count a little more, but he was able to reach back and give them a little more and their defense made a couple of great plays – some of them based on knowing where to align themselves. When we play them or Southampton, it's kind of like trying to get something past your brothers. They know what we are going to do, and we know what they are going to do.

“Davis pitched a heck of a game. We didn't give him the run support he needed. We have to score at least one, and we didn't do that. We lost, but it wasn't really because of his effort on the mound.”

The Falcons' season ends like all but one team in the eight-team field, with a loss, but it wasn't lost on Cunningham that this was the farthest any Fuqua team had gone.

“I know they're hurting big time right now, but I couldn't be more proud of these guys. They have a lot to be proud of, as well.

“We'll lose a good number of seniors, so it's up to these guys that are coming back to get to work, stay together and keep practicing. They'll play summer league ball, but after that, just one week with long toss or by hitting in the cage. Just staying in touch. That's what this team did in the offseason, and it's one reason why we had such a successful year.”

In Friday's game against Southampton Academy, the Falcons gave up two runs in the first inning and trailed most of the way before erupting for four runs in the top of the sixth to go on to the 5-2 victory.

Jamerson belted a solo home run to lead off the top of the third inning, and Josh Davis helped keep the Falcons in the game with a catch on the warning track to retire the side in the bottom of the third, leaving two SA players on base.

Jamerson saved a run in the bottom of the fifth after fielding a sharp single and throwing out a Southampton runner at the plate to end the fifth.

“That was a great throw by Jai, but Andy made a heck of a dig to field it and then crossed the base to apply the tag. That was a big momentum swing in our favor, and we were able to capitalize on it.”

Fuqua's bats came alive in the top of the sixth. Cyrus walked to lead off the inning, and was joined on the bases by Tret Jacobs, who also drew a walk. A single by Gonzalez loaded the bases, and Jamerson cleared them with an RBI. Jamerson later scored on a RBI single by Ware.

Starting pitcher Logan Byrd went into the sixth inning, before giving way to Cunningham who recorded the final two outs in the sixth and earned the save in the seventh.

“That's another Fuqua/Southampton battle. I think we could fill out each other's line-up card we're so familiar with one-another.

“Logan pitched a great game for us, and I was really glad that we could get him that lead before we changed pitchers, and I'm proud of how Carter came in when we needed him. He hasn't pitched much since his freshman year, but he told me that he could get us a few innings if we needed him.”