Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

June 12, 2014

Honaker looks to remain perfect

RADFORD, Va. — Tom Harding's teams have been to two state semifinals

before this season.

He's only been to one, which makes him more grateful than usual to bring his unbeaten Honaker Tigers to Radford University. Honaker (24-0) will try and advance to the state finals when it takes on William Campbell (14-9) in the Group 1A semifinals today at 10:00 a.m. The winner will face either Auburn or Northumberland in Saturday's 10:00 a.m. finals.

When Harding's club won a state title in 2011 he was there for the finals, arriving midway through the game after getting his doctor's permission to leave the hospital where he'd had heart surgery. That surgery forced Harding to miss Honaker's semifinal victory.

He's extremely thankful that, after the 2011 heart surgery and despite a stroke just over a year ago, he can see the whole thing this time around.

"Naturally, I feel good," said Harding, whose physical mobility, but certainly not his coaching ability, has been limited since the stroke. "I wish I could do more, but I'm very thankful to be able to do what I am doing."

Harding says his club has only a bare bones scouting report on William Campbell. In his 44th year at Honaker he says he simply doesn't know any coaches from Region 1A East to consult with about today's opponent.

"We don't know much at all about them, except we know they're big and athletic. That's about all we know," Harding said. "And they have five back from last year."

After spending most of the season hitting over .400 as a team the Tigers, meanwhile, relied on pitching and defense to shut our all three opponents on the way to last week's Region 1A West crown, a week that included a 1-0 semifinal victory over Galax.

"It feels really good to know we have that kind pitching and that kind of defense," Harding said. "We talked about that. Now we need to swing the bats a whole lot better.

"Galax wore us out on the outer part of the plate and we tried to pull everything. That's the only time we can remember a 1-0 game at Honaker, either way. I can't remember it and neither can Zach."

Zach, of course, is 25-year assistant Alex Zachwieja, who has filled in as interim head coach several times when Harding was absent for health reasons.

VHSL pitching rules prevent teams from using a pitcher on consecutive days, so Honaker ace Austin Ray will work today, as he did in the 1-0 regional semifinal win.

That leaves Hunter Meade and Makzenzie "Haus" Phillips, who have served as equally reliable number two/three starters all year, to work in the finals should the Tigers get there. Meade threw a three-hitter in the regional finals.

"We have to win Friday to play Saturday, there's not much else we can do," Harding explained. "Hunter did great (last week). We got a pick-off at first, that's the first one we've had this year.

"I just can't say enough good things about him and he's a great kid. And Haus, he's better than most of the pitchers we've seen this year."

Honaker won the 2011 Group A, Division 2 title. William Campbell lost, 5-0 to Riverheads in the 2013 Group A, Division 1 finals.

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