Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

June 14, 2014

Bitter end to season for Tigers

RADFORD, Va. — It was a bitter end to an otherwise sweet season for Honaker, which won its first 25 games before falling hard to Northumberland, 9-3 in Saturday’s Group 1A finals at Radford University.

It was a bitter ending to what were otherwise great careers for Honaker’s seven seniors, especially starters Jacob Mitchell, Makenzie Phillips, Chandler Miller and Tyler Hale, as well as other key players such as Shey Bunn and Hunter Meade. The Tigers also lose seldom-used reserve Austin Benfield.

It was especially tough for Hale, who finished his career in the dugout after his knee buckled on a run-scoring hit that fell behind him in the sixth inning.

It was especially frustrating for Mitchell, a three-year starter who said it just wasn’t a typical performance by his team.

“We could hit the ball, we just couldn’t come up with that big hit,” Mitchell said. “It takes a lot for us to get rattled. That’s not something that we do, we take pride in being a good team.

“It’s just frustration. They just turned (three) double plays and we couldn’t get anything going. Hats off to them, hats off to their middle infield, they were excellent at turning double plays. We just wanted something to go through and we just didn’t get it.”

And it was a sad end to the career of Zachwieja. The 25-year Honaker assistant did, however, leave the door open to returning one more year to help head coach Tom Harding as the 44-year coaching veteran nears the VHSL record for career coaching wins.

“It’s’s tough to lose in the state championship, it’s tough to lose your unbeaten season in the state championship, but we always battled,” he said. “We feel like another day it might have gone differently. It just wasn’t meant to be today.

“I’ve had a great career and right now I’m just going to sit back and reflect on it. There’s a very, very, very small chance that I could come back as Tom’s assistant one more year, but that’s not really in my plans, but we’re going to see how that works out."

Harding,meanwhile, thinks his club can make another run next season, especially with his pitching ace, Ray returning.

“We’re losing some great kids,” he said. “But we have A-Ray back and we’ve worked at all the positions where we’re losing players all year, so they’re used to playing them. So we ought to be all right.”

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