By J. DANIEL ROLLINS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The first season for Greater Beckley Christian’s baseball team has been met with growing pains — to say the least.
Until Thursday evening, the Crusaders had failed to get out of the fifth inning. But what first-year head coach Chris Walls saw when his team took on James Monroe can only be described in one word — progress.
The Mavericks blasted their way to victory, beating the Crusaders 18-5 in six innings Thursday night, improving to 4-11 on the season.
Even though Greater Beckley walked away with the defeat, there were moments that showed how far the first year program has come in just eight games.
“We’re getting better,” Walls said. “You can’t tell by the scoreboard, but we’re not looking at that. We’re telling by the small stuff we’re doing. Our pitchers are throwing a lot better. I thought Brett (Green) pitched a really good game tonight. He threw strikes.”
Green did come up with the loss for Greater Beckley, but his name will forever be etched in the record books — not for his defense, but for his offense.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, with James Monroe pitcher Zach Shoemaker on the mound, Green hit a line drive to left field that sailed over the fence, providing Greater Beckley with the first home run in school history.
It wasn’t quite Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield fence, but Green called his shot.
“I just told coach, ‘First good pitch he gives me, I’m going to hit it as hard as I can,’” Green said. “I didn’t think it was gone. I thought it went under the fence, but when Coach told me it was a home run, I was pretty surprised but happy at the same time.”
It’s been quite a road for the freshman for Greater Beckley, who injured his wrist near the end of basketball season and was in a cast. While having tests done on his arm, a small tumor was discovered near the tip of his thumb. Thankfully, during a biopsy, the tumor was discovered to be benign.
Now, a few weeks later, Green is swinging his way into history.
“I was tickled to death for him,” Walls said with a smile. “He’s going to be a good ball player — he already is. He’s just a freshman. He’s going to be one of the ones we’re going to groom and try to lead the program for the next couple years. We’re real impressed with the way he pitched. He’s getting real aggressive at the plate, and he turned on that one. He hit it pretty good. He’s a good kid.”
Green wasn’t the only player tearing the cover off the ball. Both Caleb Brown and Reed McNeer hit the long ball Thursday night. McNeer’s was a grand slam in the top of the sixth that sailed out of Greater Beckley’s diamond — the former “Dust Bowl” and MSU softball stadium — across 2nd Street traffic and landed on the playground at Thornhill Courts.
“It felt great. First one ever,” McNeer said of his Grand Slam. “It was an easy swing. It didn’t feel like a home run. I just hit it right in the sweet spot.”
McNeer’s shot was symbolic of sorts for the Mavericks, who started the season 1-11, losing to the likes of Woodrow Wilson, Shady Spring, Oak Hill, Independence and PikeView. James Monroe has won three in a row and seems to be slowly coming together.
“I thought we played pretty well,” James Monroe coach Nick Newberry said. “We’re starting to hit the ball a little bit. We had a rough start to the season, but the last three or four games, we’ve started to hit the ball well and it showed today. (We) played better defense. Zach and Preston (Jones) pitched well. I’m pretty happy with it.”
James Monroe welcomes Mount View to Lindside today at 5 p.m., while Greater Beckley Christian will travel to Sherman for a 3 p.m. start.
James Monroe.............105 417 — 18 12 3
Beckley Christian.........003 110 — 5 6 5
JM: Zach Shoemaker, Preston Jones (5) and Landon Shires, GBC: Brett Green, Jimmy Moreland (6) and Paul David Payne. WP — Shoemaker. LP — Green. Hitting — JM: Reed McNeer 1-3 (HR, 4 RBI, 3 R)Connor Boothe 2-5 (4 R), Caleb Brown 3-4 (HR, 4 R), Cory Lilly 1-4, Levi Canterbury 1-2 (R), Caleb Hatfield 3-5 (2 R), GBC: Brett Green 1-3 (HR, 2 R), Paul David Payne 1-2 (R).