By ANTHONY STEVENS
for the Daily Telegraph
BRISTOL, Va. — The format has changed somewhat with the change to six classifications in Virginia. But you have the same regional champion.
Honaker (24-0) made it back-to-back regional titles defeating Auburn 5-0 on Saturday to win the 1A West championship. The Tigers won the Region D title last year.
Offense has won a lot of games for the undefeated Tigers, but pitching and defense came to the front in the semifinals and finals. Senior Hunter Meade got the call on the mound for the Tigers. He would be considered by most to be second or third in the Tigers pitching order, but to put it simply, he tossed a masterpiece.
“I was nervous coming in,” an excited Meade said. “This is the first real, real big game I’ve ever had. I just tried to stay calm because I knew I had a great defense behind me.”
Meade definitely used his defense. He only had two strikeouts the entire game. But pitching to contact, he was able to throw a complete game, three-hit shutout. He only threw 80 pitches and 51 of those were strikes.
“I was comfortable from the start, but you’re still nervous throughout the game,” commented Meade. “I knew I had everyone behind me, so I just let them do their job.”
The Tigers put the only run Meade would need on the board in the second inning. Avin Parrott who has hit the ball with authority all season lined a single to center. Parrott then put his blazing speed to work, stealing second and then advancing to third on a fly out to right. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Austin Ray.
They added a run in the third. Tyler Hale walked and advanced all the way to third on a two-base error by the Eagles. Ray scored on a single by Jacob Mitchell and Honaker was on its way.
“This win definitely feels better than the rest,” said Mitchell. “It’s definitely incredible to perform like this and get a shutout in the biggest game we’ve played this season.
“We clinched our spot in the final four yesterday, so there was no pressure. But we knew what we wanted to do and we were able to come out and do it.”
Mitchell the catcher, calls the pitches for the Tigers. He was a calming influence on Meade who retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced.
“Hats off to Hunter Meade, he threw a heckuva game,” remarked Mitchell. “We knew he was throwing today, I texted him this morning and he was already amped up and ready to go. We had a lot of confidence in him.”
Centerfielder Jacob Coleman had five putouts and made a couple of outstanding plays. Parrott had a great catch in left-center. The middle infield defense was spectacular. Second baseman Derek Gilbert had five assist and shortstop Hunter Lester contributed three assists.
“Meade just said here boys hit it,” Honaker coach Tom Harding said. “He throws harder than people expect him to throw.”
Levi Bower reached for Auburn (13-12) in the third on the only Honaker error of the game. Gabrael Spencer followed with a hit to put Bower at second. It was the only runner the Eagles got as far as second base the entire game. Meade then promptly picked Spencer off first to end the inning. Caleb Link and Cody Akers had the other hits for Auburn.
The Tigers added another run in the fourth on the second RBI by Ray. They added two more runs in the fifth, as Phillips and Lester picked up RBIs.
Both teams advance to the VHSL 1A semifinals at Radford University beginning on Friday.
At DeVault Stadium
Auburn...........000 000 0 — 0 3 3
Honaker.........011 120 x — 5 6 1
Kenley and Gresty. Meade and Mitchell. WP—Meade (6-0). LP—Kenley (1-1). HR—none.