Pitcher Keely Rochard and the Warhill defense finished the season with nine consecutive shutouts, seven of those in the playoffs that the Lions capped Saturday with a state title.
The last game Warhill allowed a run, in a 6-2 win over New Kent May 13, was one of the major turning points of the season. Coach Tom Bunn pointed that out entering the playoffs and junior third baseman Kieran McClure reiterated it as she reflected on the championship season.
"Bunn was not happy with us (after New Kent)," McClure said, "and we ended up running at the next practice."
He wasn't pleased because of the lack of urgency and attention to detail his team showed in the win. He told them the little things would matter for the Lions to win states.
Warhill buckled down and outscored its opponents 49-0 to finish the season.
"I think that's when we realized the little things are always going to matter down the road," McClure said, "whether we had won the game or not."
Rochard was dominant along the way, averaging about 12 strikeouts per game with 14 shutouts.
Rochard had only five Ks in the final as well as the region championship. As Bunn told his team, when that many consecutive shutouts are posted, the defense behind the pitcher is doing something right, too.
Saturday, McClure and senior shortstop Hayley Schulz were tested, especially, against a Brookville team keen on testing the left side of the infield.
"Kieran and Hayley were just equal to the task," Bunn said.
Sweet win in Bees' hive
With a pitcher like Rochard and entering with only one loss all season, labeling the Lions an underdog for the state final may not have been appropriate.
But Warhill was going against the two-time reigning champion, not to mention a pitcher that threw eight no-hitters this season. And the Lions also had what amounted to a Brookville home crowd to contend with (Brookville High is located about four miles from Liberty University).
The maroon- and yellow-clad Bee fans were there in full force.
"We had about 20-some fans and their whole side of the stadium was filled with people," McClure said. "… It was loud and it was hectic and it was hard for us to hear each other on the field. I think no one there really expected us to win other than us and our fans."
Strengthened by competition
As the story goes for all of Bruton's sports under the current VHSL season structure, playoffs can be kind of unpredictable.
The Panthers must face larger schools throughout their regular season, often leaving them with less-than-stellar records come postseason.
That was the case for the Bruton boys soccer team, which went 2-7 in the Bay Rivers District, but advanced to the state tournament for the first time in school history before defeat in the final against an outstanding George Mason side.
"A lot of these teams that we've beaten with one or zero losses," Bruton coach Luke Taylor said, "they would be coming in the playoffs with four losses as well if they had to play the gauntlet that we have to play all season long."
Talking about practice
For John Cole, who wrapped his first season as Jamestown's head baseball coach Saturday, the Eagles improvement throughout the season as a "practice team" prepared them for their state semifinal run.
Catcher Roger Romero said the same thing following a conference playoff win.
Cole said it made Jamestown a better "game team" and comfortable on the same Liberty University field with a strong Liberty Christian Academy team that featured right-hander Zack Hess, an LSU commit that was drafted in the 35th round of the MLB Draft by the New York Yankees.
"I think that was very important to the validation of the season," Cole said.
Liberty Christian fell in the final to a stacked, veteran Hanover team that has several college recruits.
Jamestown will lose most of its starters for next season to graduation including three college recruits of its own in pitcher Kent Klyman (N.C. State), outfielder Evan Lowery (Navy) and outfielder Chris Jones (Liberty).
Behind returning starter Ryan Devine, a junior, the infield should be the Eagles' strength next year with seniors Michael Schmidt, Andrew Barrow, and Matt Lansford back. Senior Kevin Mooney will also return from an injury to take Romero's spot behind the plate.
Mahaffey finishes top-5
Senior Brad Mahaffey concluded his Jamestown boys tennis career Friday as he and doubles partner Grayson DeBerry, a junior, fell in the 4A semifinals.
Mahaffey will leave Jamestown fourth place on the all-time Jamestown boys' total win list with 109.
He and DeBerry lost to Luc Mortesmousque and Trent Daly of E.C. Glass and that pair ultimately fell to Parker Wilson and Carter Watts, who repeated as champs with a marathon 7-5, 7-6 (15-13) victory.
Jamestown coach Bob Artis said his pair played well, but the Glass players came up bigger on crucial points.
"When you get to the state level, it's amazing how many other good teams there are," Artis said. "You better have all your ducks in a row and you better be ready to play because every player there and every coach there is an alpha dog."
Following a 2-0 win over Lafayette Friday in the 4A boys soccer semifinals, Park View of Sterling went on to top Chancellor 1-0 for a state title Saturday.
The win over the Rams was a hard-earned one that was evenly-contested with Lafayette outshooting Park View by six shots.
With only one senior in the starting lineup, Park View coach Arturo Jimenez said Friday he felt good about his team even making it to Liberty University.
Waiting there for Park View was a Lafayette team that impressed Jimenez with its discipline in the back. "Their keeper (David Domalski) was good," he said. "They stayed back. I was hoping they would move up a little like they did against Chancellor… They were a very good team. I guess we were the better team today."
Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.