Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

June 13, 2014

Tigers one game from state title

RADFORD, Va. — The last time Honaker won a state title, Jacob Mitchell, Makenzie Phillips, Chandler Miller, Tyler Hale and Shey Bunn mostly watched from the dugout.

That year they were freshmen and played limited roles as reserves when the Tigers won the 2011 Group A, Division 2 title.

This year the five are seniors. Four of them started and all five played in Friday’s 5-2 win over William Campbell in the Group 1A semifinals.

Today they’ll play key roles again as Honaker (25-0) meets Northumberland (22-2) in the state championship game at Radford University Baseball Stadium.

“There were five of us that were on that 2011 team, but it's different for us this year,” Mitchell said. “We're all playing major roles this year.”

Mitchell, Friday’s winning pitcher Austin Ray and the rest of this year’s Tigers learned a lot from key players for the 2011 champs.

“I came along behind Jordon Dye, an excellent catcher,” Mitchell explained. “I worked a lot with him my freshman year. Chaz (Miller) works with Austin Ray. It's an all Honaker thing and it's exciting.”

Mitchell has started behind the plate the past three seasons. His state final experience from 2011 included being picked off as a pinch-runner in Honaker’s 16-9 win over J.J. Kelly, something he can laugh about now.

“I pinch ran, I got picked off and I still get some heck for that,” said Mitchell with a chuckle. “I told coach Harding 'that's why you won't let me run, isn't it’.

“He said he was coming to the game from the hospital, he heard on the radio that I got picked off and he said he punched a hole in the roof of the car.”

Harding missed the state semifinals in 2011 because of heart surgery and arrived from the hospital during the finals. He says he’s thankful for the opportunity at a second state championship ring. He said he’s confident his team will be focused and as ready for today’s finals as any team could be.

“They play and act, they are I know, totally focused, and if we lose tomorrow it won't be from a lack of focus, I can tell you that,” Harding said. “These kids are always prepared and ready to play.”

Northumberland defeated Auburn, 12-6 in Friday's second semifinal game.

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