RADFORD, Va. —
Unfortunately the Honaker Tigers neither played well nor had good luck, two prerequisites for being a state championship team. Northumberland claimed the first state baseball title in school history with a 9-3 victory over Honaker at Radford University.
After playing outstanding in their first 25 games, the Tigers struggled in every aspect of the game on Saturday morning. Pitching, defense, hitting, and base running all caused problems.
“We had runners on base several times and we didn’t capitalize,” Honaker coach Tom Harding said. “They fielded the ball much better than we did. We made five errors today and you can’t do that against a good ball club.
“Give Northumberland credit, they did what they had to do.”
Hunter Meade pitched the first four innings and Mackenzie Phillips the final three for Honaker. The two seniors combined to walk three, hit three batters, and only had two strikeouts. Add the defensive miscues, nine hits, and you end up with nine runs scored by the Indians.
Honaker got the first two runners on base without an out, in three of the first four innings. The result, no runs, they grounded into three double plays and left six runners stranded through four. The Tigers left 10 runners on base in the game. They had a runner thrown out at third trying to stretch a double into a triple and a runner thrown out at second while trailing by four runs.
“We came into this game knowing we could beat anyone,” Honaker senior catcher Jacob Mitchell said. “This hits us hard. We know we could have had a better performance today than what we had. I really think losing by beating ourselves is the worst thing.”
Honaker (25-1) rolled through the regular season and conference tournament. Facing stiff competition at the regional and state level, they had played well. Simply the Tigers picked a bad time to have a bad game.
“It was all today,” remarked Mitchell. “Offensively or defensive we couldn’t catch a break. We couldn’t get anything going. They had big hits at big times and we didn’t get many clutch hits. To make errors like we did, we’re just not that type of team. This is rough.”
The one and three hitters for Northumberland (23-2) were devastating, combining for five hits and six RBIs. Lead-off man Matthew Harris was 2-for-3 with three RBIs. 3-hitter Jack Jett was 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
Jett was also a workhorse on the mound. The Indians had used their number one and three pitchers in the semifinals, a win over Auburn. Jett their number two was basically all they had left. He threw 142 pitches in the complete game effort.
Sophomore second baseman Derek Gilbert was 3-for-4 for the Tigers and drove in all three runs.
“You have bad days in baseball—that’s just the nature of the game,” Gilbert said. “I really hate this, especially for the seniors. It’s going to be rough without them next year.”
It was also the final game for longtime Honaker assistant coach Alex Zachwieja, who is retiring.
“It’s bitter to lose a state championship game, no matter how you look at it,” commented Zachwieja. “But we’ve had a great season, so I can’t be too upset.
“When I look back on this year these kids played magnificently. But it’s tough to lose your undefeated season in the finals. We made some mistakes today that we hadn’t made all year long but these boys battled the entire game.”
At Radford University
Northumberland...........002 121 3 — 9 9 1
Honaker........................000 012 0 — 3 6 5
Jett and Br. Walker. Meade, Phillips (5) and Mitchell.
W—Jett. L—Meade (6-1). HR—none.