District races across all spring sports are heating up with the temperatures (if Mother Nature decides to make up her mind, anyway). One of the races most intriguing is Central District baseball. Five teams are closely involved in the playoff race: Prince George, Thomas Dale, Dinwiddie and Matoaca, and while on currently on the outside looking in, Colonial Heights is looking to make a run as well.
“You’ve got a bunch of good teams that are going to go out there and beat each other up,” said Matoaca baseball head coach Fred Stoots. “It’s anyone’s race; it could be anyone in the district.”
One of the teams jostling for position is Thomas Dale, who despite a young roster has strung together a 7-3-1 record and a 6-2 Central District record.
“Our pitching has been tremendous at times,” said Thomas Dale head coach Chris Marshall, “And our defense has been solid as well.”
That pitching staff, led by sophomore hurler Tommy Barron, is as youthful as they are talented. Barron has pitched to a 2-0 record with a 0.84 earned run average (ERA), hurling a no-hitter against Meadowbrook two weeks ago. Collin Fleischer, a junior who is already verbally committed to VMI has excelled as a two-way player, pitching to a 2-1 record with a 3.85 ERA while hitting .400 with a home run and four RBI. The soon to be Keydet has shown great plate discipline, walking 12 times while striking out twice on the season. Sophomores Nathan Eaton and Cody Boydstun have also pitched well.
Offensively, Maurice Gothe (.419 batting average) and Joe Petree (.417 batting average) have also been keys to the Knights success.
“We’ve worked harder in practice than I’ve ever seen before,” said Fleischer. “We know what’s important; we’re going to work hard to play our game.”
Last Thursday the Knights faced off against the Warriors, and despite the Matoaca’s slow start to this season coming in as a favorites to win the district, the Warriors were able to defeat the Knights 4-2. The victory moved Matoaca into a tie with Dale with a 6-2 Central District record.
Matoaca is led by junior pitcher Rick Spiers, who allowed no earned runs over seven innings while striking out six in the victory over Thomas Dale.
“I try to go out there and battle for my team,” said Spiers. “My offense goes out there and gets me runs; it’s my job to make sure we win.”
Spiers doesn’t have one skill that stands out, but Stoots says his success is driven through his desire to win- everything.
“Rick’s a competitor,” said Stoots. “He’s got a tenacious appetite for success, he wants to win everything.”
Spiers’ drive to succeed has aided him to a 4-1 record and a sparkling 0.43 ERA, striking out 27 batters. Despite the team’s slow start, the Warriors seem to be putting it together, and at the right time.
“We expected to do well early in the season and we fell short,” explained Spiers. “That hurt,” he continued. “We’ve been working to get better and to take this thing one game at a time.”
The Warriors have also received a spark from senior center fielder Brandon Traylor, who is hitting .467 on the season and had a clutch RBI double in the team’s triumph over Dale last week.
The top four teams in the district standings qualify for the district tournament and the two teams to reach the finals qualify for the Central Region Tournament. Both Matoaca and Dale will look to position themselves for postseason success in the coming weeks.
Both teams continue their season at home Thursday at 5 p.m. as the Warriors play Petersburg at 5 p.m. and Thursday while Thomas Dale hosts a showdown with Dinwiddie.
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