The end is near for Virginia Intermont.
The Cobras want to make their baseball season last for as long as they can.
“That is the difficult part of where we are at right now,” Virginia Intermont head coach Jeremy Christian said. “The guys know that it is the end and for us to extend what we have here is to keep winning, the more you win the longer our season continues.”
Virginia Intermont didn’t play like a team facing the grim reality of what lies ahead, defeating Bluefield State 16-2 on Wednesday evening at Bowen Field.
“Today, I knew it was going to be either one or two ways,” Christian said. “We were going to come out and not be ready to play or we were going to come out with some fire and be ready to play some ball and they came out that way in the end.”
It was announced last week that the financially-scrapped Bristol, Virginia institution will be closing its doors in July.
“It is a beautiful day and a beautiful place to play,” said Bluefield State head coach Geoff Hunter, of finally getting to play in Bluefield for the second time in 38 games this season. “You have got to give them a lot of credit.
“They have a lot of issues going on, hats off to the coaching staff and their players, they came out ready to play and they played hard and good for them.”
Virginia Intermont (20-24) played nearly flawless baseball, scoring 16 runs on 16 hits, while three pitchers surrendered just five hits and two runs, and the defense made no errors in the field.
“It was a clean day at the ball park,” Christian said. “Anytime you can come out and you can score basically every inning but one, our pitchers threw strikes and our defense was clean, it was a good day for us.”
It was certainly better than the news that came last week.
“Last week was extremely difficult, that is when it hit and it was tough for us mentally,” Christian said, “but I think we are to the point now where the guys have accepted what is coming and they know that their futures are bright and they have faith they are going to be in great position in the future.
“They want to keep playing, they want to stay together as a family and keep trying.”
They did just fine against the Blues, led by Seth Davis, who had four hits, including a double and a two-run home run, along with three runs scored and six assists in the field at third base.
Adrian Rivers drove in four runs with a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly, while Clint Chafin and Von Allen also had two hits, as did Tazewell product Ryan Hankins, who had a double, single, drove in two runs and scored twice.
Fellow Tazewell product Gavan Yates came off the bench to stroke a two-run double in the eighth. Ridge Sibold, the first of four pitchers for Bluefield State, was tagged with the loss.
“They did a good job in all facets of the game so I wish them the best,” said Hunter, whose Blues had four errors in the field. “I wish them luck, we didn’t play very well defensively and when you don’t do that at this level it is tough.
“Obviously he had them ready to play, you have got to take your hat off to that.”
Bluefield State whittled a two-run deficit down to one in the bottom of the first when Dale Davis tripled to left field when a diving catch failed, and scored on an infield single from Ricky Diaz.
That lead grew to 7-1 in the second when the Cobras scored five runs on six hits, and added two more in the third for the 9-1 advantage. Bluefield State scoring for the final time in the bottom of the third when Davis was hit by a pitch, swiped second and scored on a single by Cory Payne.
From that point, the trio of Luke Harris, Kyle Blue and Josh Paolucci retired 20 of the next 21 batters in the game, with Diaz reaching on a single in the fifth. The final 13 Bluefield State hitters were retired.
The Cobras scored at least one run eight of the nine innings.
“I think he has got a fine team and some fine players,” Hunter said. “I have a lot of respect for him as a coach and I am sure other teams do too. I think there is a good fit for everybody and I am sure those kids will get an opportunity to go somewhere else.”
Finding homes for his players is a task ahead for Christian, who doesn’t feel like that will be a problem at all.
“The good news is I have got great guys who are good baseball players and they are great young men,” Christian said. “They excel in the classroom and on the field and I will not have problem with finding them places to play.
“I have had multiple phone calls already and I will continue to get calls. Obviously we want to finish out the year strong, try to win the conference tournament, try to get to the national tournament and then it is going to be where we can find the right fit for our guys and try to place these 31 guys we have got.”
That includes Hankins and Yates, a pair of sophomores, who were key contributors at Tazewell, and were part of Christian’s second recruiting class in Bristol.
“Those guys are gamers...they are seasoned sophomores, they are still young and I forget about that some because they are such young players,” said Christian, who will be looking for a job as well. “They have jumped right in and adjusted and bought into what we do here and they are hard workers.
“They are going to grind from the beginning, from sun-up to sundown and wherever they find a place to land they are going to be immediate impact players for the programs.”
Bluefield State (9-29), which played just its second game all season in Bluefield — having also played at Bowen Field against Bluefield College earlier this month — returns to Beckley’s Linda K. Epling Stadium today for a ‘home’ twinbill with West Virginia Tech.
With Bluefield State playing an independent schedule and with its field having suffered damage from the winter weather, the Blues have been on the road all season, but the goal ahead to still to play at least 50 games.
“It is just a matter of whether you decide to play the games or not and we decided to play,” Hunter said. “When we don’t play we go to class and we rest and we haven’t had a lot of time for practicing, but it is just the choice you make.
“Our choice is to play the games because that is what the kids remember in the long run. Sometimes when you are doing that you don’t get a chance to work between games and you don’t have a good day and that is what happened to us today.
“Our kids are still hanging in there and I am sure proud of them for doing that. Our goal is to play 50 and we have still got a shot.”
—Contact Brian Woodson
at Bowen Field
Va Intermont........252 111 022 — 16 16 0
Bluefield State.....101 000 000 — 2 5 4
Luke Harris, Kyle Blue (5), Josh Paolucci and Clint Chafin. Ridge Sibold, Jacob Muncy (2), Kyle Blocker (8), Frank Omsbee and Scott Edwards, Jacob Hall (6). W—Harris; L—Sibold. HR—Seth Davis (VI) 9th, 1 on.