For Matoaca High School baseball, a changing of the guard occurred this past off-season when longtime coach Tim Haynes retired and Chris Olsen, a long-time assistant in the area, was tabbed for his first head coaching position.
With a core of veteran players and some exciting young talent, the Warriors have put together a solid start to the season despite seven games and some practices rained out. For Olsen, that’s been the biggest challenge he’s endured so far. Despite those challenges, Matoaca is 4-0 through April 17.
“We started baseball on Feb. 19, and since then we’ve played just four games,” Olsen said. “It’s hard to keep the kids’ skills sharp in circumstances like these.”
When they have played, they’ve had the benefit of a senior pitcher with a fastball who has college and pro scouts’ eyes popping. Jacob Waltman is verbally committed to Louisburg College in North Carolina, but several major league clubs are interested in potentially selecting him in the upcoming June amateur draft. His fastball is marked in the mid-to-upper 80s, and he twirled a one-hitter versus rival Thomas Dale High in a game that Matoaca won 10-0. With control that’s getting better and a breaking ball that’s also improving, Waltman gives the Warriors a big game option on the mound.
Olsen cited two position players of note. One is a team leader, senior Ryan Smith. The other is an exciting offensive prospect who’s a freshman, catcher/outfielder Tanner Clements.
Smith is a lead-by-example type of player who can be plugged anywhere in the line-up. To date, he’s played second base, third base, right field and left field.
Clements provides exciting size (6-2), and Olsen says that he could develop into a “stud.” The first-year coach has trusted Clements to bat third despite his youth. He has impressive plate discipline and bat speed.
“It’s hard to throw a ball by him,” Olsen said.
The Warriors face Meadowbrook on Thursday and Thomas Dale on May 1.
In his second season back after a retirement of sorts, softball coach Scott Driskill is back with his daughter, Bridgewater softball alum, Berkeley, coaching at his side.
“My daughter is a Chesterfield County teacher and also my assistant coach, so coming back to coaching has been a double blessing,” Driskill explained.
Matoaca has gotten off to a 2-5 start, but they have navigated a difficult schedule, playing Atlee, Manchester, Cosby and Thomas Dale. Driskill referenced the Yankees’ lineups of the past by calling this group of teams “Murderer’s Row.”
“With all of the excellent pitching, those games were a serious challenge,” Driskill said. “We played OK defensively, but you need to score runs when you play good teams.”
Senior Katie Higgins is back, and she will be doing the bulk of the pitching and also play some infield. A team captain, she is very “softball smart” and can be trusted in the circle, at the plate or in the field.
Junior Riley Hunt has been the offensive leader for the Warriors from the first base position. She has hit even when her teammates haven’t, and socked two home runs against rival Thomas Dale in a losing effort.
Myla Lundie, a junior third baseman who also does some pitching, is another power bat for Matoaca. She and Hunt were both applauded by Driskill for excellent glove work in addition to their offensive prowess.
The Warriors will face off with perennial power Prince George this week as they look to push for seeding in Conference 12.