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Blacksburg baseball players are in it for the long haul

07/27/2007, 5:39pm EDT
By The Roanoke Times

The essence of Blacksburg's bid to lay claim to the 9- and 10-year-olds' Dixie Minors state title this week was voiced Monday night by a shaken supporter of a team from baseball-rich Halifax County.

Blacksburg, which has never won a Dixie Youth state championship in Minors in the 50 years of the association's history, was in the process of dismantling Halifax South 7-3 at Moyer Sports Complex in Salem. It was the start of the fifth inning and Blacksburg's third pitcher of the night, Adam Linkous, had taken the mound for his turn.

"They done put in another pitcher," said a voice in the unmistakable Southside accent of one who has seen many a sunset over greenish gold tobacco fields. "How many pitchers does that team have?

"Lord have mercy," the voice continued. "They could play all night."

Probably so.

"We've used eight different pitchers from a total of 12 players so far this postseason," said Mike Goforth, Blacksburg's head coach.

Which in some ways was a happy accident.

"We knew we were going to need three guns to pitch when we were putting together the team," Goforth said. "After that, what we looked for were guys who could play multiple positions and swing the bat."

As it turned out, the multiple positions among the nine other players also included five more who could pitch.

It's been the bucket brigade approach to pitching ever since. In practice, that's meant games such as the Halifax South victory in which Caden Croy took the hill first and was subsequently followed by Hal Hughes, Adam Linkous and Thomas Hughes.

With turns in the rotation going no more than three innings each, the staff has stayed rested and the bill for ice on sore shoulders and elbows has remained low.

Digestive medications for coaches and parents have not been so cheap. Take, for example, the experiences of assistant coach Chris Lucas, whose son Aaron is a team alternate. Understand first that Chris Lucas, a Montgomery County deputy sheriff, is a well-seasoned coach, working on the varsity football staff at his alma mater, Blacksburg. Lucas was also head varsity baseball coach at Christiansburg in the mid-1990s.

"At Christiansburg, we won two regular seasons and two New River District championships, but I've never been so tore up as I was when we played Salem in this baseball tournament this week," Lucas said.

Imagine the antacid tablets Salem coaches gobbled after losing 10-8 in a game that required a seventh and extra inning to settle after two ties and four lead changes.

Games like that start making you wonder whether this team has been sprinkled with an extra measure of fairy dust this year. Maybe. Basically, they're just good.

How good remains to be revealed. Blacksburg, the tournament's last undefeated team, was scheduled to have faced Salem in a rematch Thursday. Rain has played havoc with the tournament schedule, so that was a game that has been twice delayed.

Salem defeated Blacksburg 5-3 on Thursday to force a final game Saturday. Blacksburg won a coin flip with Charlotte County and will play in the 10 a.m. Saturday championship game. Salem and Charlotte County play at 5 p.m. today, with the winner to face Blacksburg on Saturday.

"Our pitching's set up, and we're hitting the heck out of the ball," Goforth said. "I love our chances."

All this quality pitching and bashing has been as contagious as Chinese flu.

"One through nine, they're all hitting it," said Chris Lucas, who keeps the books.

Offered as an example is the No. 9 batter in the order, Andrew Guy. Supposedly, the nine hole is where a coach pencils in his lightest hitter. Guy must not have understood the job description. To be clear, his state tournament numbers: 6-for-8, four RBI, run scored.

Because Guy has been so uncooperative with opposing pitching, that's given leadoff guy Ethan Goforth plenty of at-bats with men on base.

"That boy is a hustler," said one of Halifax's fans respectfully.

A hustler? What about the young man's parents (his dad's the coach) who have to shuttle him back and forth from games and practices in football, basketball, wrestling, tae kwon do (he's already a black belt) and baseball?

"There's a lot of very active kids on this baseball team, and there have been a lot of loyal parents who have taken them around," Mike Goforth said. "As soon as this tournament ends, most players are heading straight to football."

The athletic versatility is apparent on the baseball team. Third baseman Morgan McCoy, for one, has played third base, shortstop and pitched during the tournament. First baseman Tyler Davis has also toiled at second and third.

The man's right. This group could play all night. And they'd enjoy every single minute of it.

Tag(s): 2007  News