BRISTOL, Va. — As a J.J. Kelly player alumnus, Wise Central head baseball coach Brian Mills has long known what it takes to compete for a state championship.
Thursday night at DeVault Memorial Stadium, his players got a glimpse of what it takes.
It was practically etched into their retinas.
Virginia High hammered out 14 hits and the Bearcats throttled the Warriors 20-2, racing against the weather to get the Clinch Mountain Conference 40 tournament title game over with in five innings.
"They've had our number all year. We're intimidated by them. I'm not afraid to say that," said Mills, whose team will travel to either Marion or Grayson County in Monday's opening round of the Region 2A West tournament.
"I told the kids, that's a state championship caliber team. If you ever want to get to that level, right there it is," said Mills, who has led his team to a program high water mark.
Central left-hander Jake Flanary (3-1) saw it all up close and personal. Painted into the corner by inning limits and the impending regionals, Mills had little choice but to leave his starter twisting in the wind.
It was a harsh adjustment of perspective that dumped the southpaw's pristine book into a smoking ashcan. Flanary was unbeaten with an 0.90 ERA when he stepped on the rubber Thursday night. He surrendered the hill with one out in the fourth inning to Jake Jessee trailing 15-2 with loaded bags.
"I can't go through three or four pitchers when we're playing Monday. Unfortunately, we sacrificed him," said Mills, whose shell-shocked team committed six errors, half of which (at least) might be partially attributed to the weather.
Virginia High's Chandler Daniels (6-1) tossed a four-hit victory for the Conference 40 tournament trophy. Mark Dotson led Central (17-4) with two, one of which was an RBI single in the third inning.
The Bearcats pitcher helped his cause with two hits, including a two-RBI triple in the first inning. Austin Kiser went 2-for-3 with a two-RBI double in the second inning.
Chandler Davis had two hits and an RBI for Virginia High (20-4) and Ty McReynolds had a single and two RBIs. Austin Daniels had a hit and a sac fly.
Bearcats leadoff man Dalton Horne got on base four times for the second straight day and scored twice. He got two singles, a sacrifice fly and a walk.
"You've got to give credit to God. He's letting it come in there looking like a beach ball the last two days. Hopefully, he lets it continue," said Horne.
Stung by last year's unfathomable loss to Gate City in the Division 2 regional quarterfinals, Virginia High has been on a crusade to claim a state Final Four berth since day one. The reconfigured 2A West bracket won't make it any easier.
Thursday night was nothing personal. It was strictly business.
"We've got a lot of work to get there. Monday, that's when your lifeline is hung out there," said Bearcats coach Mark Daniels, who'll play at home.
"This bunch hopefully learned from last year and is going to make a run at it," he said.comments powered by Disqus