Matoaca: On the war path

When there is talk of the more predominant teams of the Central Region, usually there is talk of Thomas Dale soccer, L.C. Bird football and Highland Springs basketball, but perhaps Matoaca’s baseball team could now be considered a part of that list.

The program, under head coach Fred Stoots, has compiled 52 wins and a .722 winning percentage in the last three seasons. After an appearance in states last year, the team now looks to improve on the mark.

And after graduating five division-one-caliber athletes, this year’s team leaders are starting pitcher Will Brown and catcher/designated hitter Nolan Overby.

The Warriors, who have gotten off to a 5-2 start this season, are coming off one of the better seasons in school history; a season that landed them an appearance in the State Championship tournament, falling 3-1 to Western Branch of Chesapeake in the first game after losing a heartbreaker in the regional final to Cosby, 8-7.

Brown, a pitcher that according to his catcher has a dynamite fastball clocking in at around 85 mph, has committed to Georgetown this October. As the season progresses, he is counted on as the staff ace for the Warriors.

“He’s got a nasty fastball,” says Overby. “Good bite on the two-seamer and his curveball drops right off the plate.”

Both Stoots and Overby commend him for his work ethic on the mound. Aside from his pitching repertoire and reputation, he has impressed Georgetown with his 4.2 GPA. “He’s a hard worker in and out of the classroom,” said Stoots. “He’s constantly working to improve his pitches.”

Also of benefit to Brown is catcher Overby, who has caught Brown since eighth grade when they both made the JV squad together.

“I think the key is to get in a lot of bullpen sessions,” said Overby. “You have to get to know the pitcher better than he knows himself, know how he’s feeling that day, and his tendencies when he’s not feeling well.”     Overby, credits 2010 Matoaca graduate Nathan Chamberlain as his mentor last season who is now currently playing for Virginia Wesleyan. Overby now starts behind the dish for the Warriors and will follow his predecessor and also attend college on a scholarship.

“I learned a lot from Nathan (Chamberlain) last year,” said Overby. “I also learned a lot about poise as we progressed through the playoffs; it’s not often you get to be one of the last eight teams in the state.”

While touted by Stoots for his ability to work with pitchers and his knowledge of the game, Overby has good hands at the plate. He’s gotten off to a hot start with the bat, wrapping up a .430 batting average so far this season, giving Central District pitchers a bit of a scare.

“He hits the ball wherever he wants,” said Stoots. “It makes it hard to get a good scouting report on him.”

His talks with Shenandoah University sparked from a homerun he hit during a summer hitting slump, he said. This fall he will be attending the school and playing baseball.

Since 2007, 16 ballplayers from the program have gone on to play at the college level, with eight of them at Division 1 schools – the most elite division of collegiate athletics in the country.

“I give Coach Stoots a lot of credit,” said Overby. “He’s worked with me and really made me a better player.”

The Warrior’s next contest will be this Thursday, April 7, on the road at Hopewell. Game time is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Subsequently, Matoaca will host Meadowbrook the following Tuesday at the same time. For continued coverage of spring sports, check out www.villagenewsonline.com.

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