Season ends, but growth continues for Buckingham Knights

Published 6:04 am Saturday, June 10, 2023

SALEM – You have to go back more than a decade to find a baseball season like the one the Buckingham Knights just finished. For the first time since before 2008, the high school team went undefeated in region play at 12-0. For the first time in almost 15 years, the team recorded 18 wins. Not bad for a group with a new coaching staff, several new players and others that took on new roles. 

“I thought we had a great year,” Knights head coach John Toney said. “18-3. (A) perfect 12-0 in region. District champs, regional champions and (being in the) final four in the state is something to be very proud of.” 

That season came to an end on Friday, June 9, as the Knights lost to the Patrick County Cougars 10-3 in the state semi-final. In a game that started off as a pitcher’s duel, the teams went into the fourth tied 0-0, but the Cougars broke the game open, scoring five runs in the inning.

Email newsletter signup

They added three more in the fifth, before Buckingham responded with three runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. Buckingham’s Justin Gunter was responsible for all three of the team’s RBIs on the day, all of which came off his hit in the fifth. The Cougars finished things off by adding two more runs in the top of the seventh. 

But regardless of how that final game turned out, Buckingham ends the season ranked #39 in all of Virginia high school baseball. They also finish ranked as one of the top four in the state when it comes to Class 2 baseball programs. That’s not a bad way to build. 

Building Buckingham Knights baseball

The record also shows how the team has grown over the last several years. Last season, the Buckingham Knights finished at 17-5-1, with a 12-2 record in region play. In the 2020-21 season, they were 10-3, 9-2 in the region. And of course, the year before that, there wasn’t a season due to the pandemic.  

The goal in his first year as head coach, Toney said, was to re-enforce what had been built before, to emphasize “Buckingham baseball”. When you think of teams, each one has their own identity. Toney wants the community, other teams and schools to think of Buckingham baseball and automatically know what’s coming. 

“We try to play with more energy, more grit than the other team,” Toney said. “We show up, we do all the small things right. We don’t want to put ourselves into bad situations. That’s Buckingham baseball.” 

A year ago at this time, Toney was in a similar situation, but as an assistant coach with Buckingham. Now, with one year of head coaching under his belt, it was a bit different than he expected, but still exciting. 

“Being at the varsity level, it’s a little bit more pressure (as a head coach),” Toney said. “You’re thinking about everything. You’re thinking about your next move, your last move, and everything happening. But I’ll say when you’re coaching this group of guys, it makes it easier.” 

That includes every player on the team. He points to several, like Friday’s RBI leader Gunter and Friday’s starting pitcher Avery Schaeffer as players who could be key contributors for next season. There’s Kayne Wooden, another talented pitcher on staff, but one who also can suit up and play shortstop and outfield. Toney also doesn’t want to forget any of this year’s senior class

“The six seniors will be extremely missed,” he said. 

That includes Daniel Farrish, Holden Tyson, Camden Allen, Cam Newton, Eli Bryant and George Hurt. Toney credits them for keeping everyone together and focused through the year. 

And beyond the team, Toney thanked the parents and overall community for their support. 

“My first year was a blessing from the talent of these great players, my coaching staff and the support of all the parents,” Toney said. “The future is still very bright for Buckingham baseball.”