SALEM — Dominant starting pitching and fundamentally sound defense have been staples of the Fluvanna County baseball team’s run to the VHSL Class 3 state championship game.
On Friday, the Flucos proved that they swing the sticks with the best of them too.
Fluvanna cranked out 19 hits and a season-high 16 runs in a 16-10 victory over Tabb at Kiwanis Field to claim the program’s first state baseball title.
“It’s the biggest moment,” junior Andrew Ward said. “I don’t have any words to say. We came out today and played our tails off. We hit the ball really well and I’m glad to see us win the state championship.”
Andrew Ward, Kevin Ward, Kyle Algieri and Jacob Critzer spearheaded Fluvanna’s hitting barrage, which included a three home runs.
“Today we hit the ball better than we ever did and I’m very proud of all of us and the coaches,” Andrew Ward said.
Andrew Ward had an afternoon to remember, going 5-for-6 with three RBI and three runs scored.
“I wanted to come into this game and focus on scoring and hits,” Ward said. “We came out today and hit. This was the biggest performance I’ve ever had in my entire life.”
Kevin Ward finished with four hits, including a solo homer, and drove in a team-high four runs, while Algieri had three hits to go along with an RBI and two runs scored. Critzer tallied three hits, including a two-run homer, and Tobias Sherman added two hits, including his first career home run.
Fluvanna County set the tone early, scoring five runs in the top of the first inning. Coach Joel Gray’s team sent 10 players to the plate and tallied four hits off Tabb starter Trey Stover.
“I was glad we were the visiting team,” Gray said. “Everybody is just about out of pitching today and when we put a five-spot in the first inning, that was awesome. I think that took a lot of pressure off of everybody that was playing and it lightened our mood in the dugout a great deal. That was critical.”
After using its top two pitchers in Thursday’s 5-4 win over Brentsville District in the state semifinals, Gray knew that Friday would require an all-hands-on-deck pitching performance.
Wyatt Dansey, the team’s No. 3 starter, pitched 3 2/3 innings and allowed just three runs on three hits while striking out three to pick up the victory. Lefty Kristian Negron surrendered three runs on three hits and struck out one in relief. Algieri pitched the seventh to close out the game for the Flucos.
“We knew coming into today that we were going to have to piece together some pitching and throw some guys that had really good numbers all year, but obviously our two horses had eaten up so many innings, they got up there and did what they needed to do,” Gray said. “Of course, we had our hitting shoes on, so that was a good thing.”
Fluvanna County added four runs in the top of the third inning to stretch the lead to 9-0. Critzer hit his second long ball in as many days, this one a two-run shot that chased Stover. Kevin Ward welcomed reliever Nathaniel Mack to the game with a solo blast two pitches later to ignite the rally.
The Flucos’ power surge didn’t stop there.
After Tabb scored two runs in the bottom of the third, Sherman led off the fourth inning with a towering blast over the left field wall to spark another three-run inning that extended Fluvanna’s lead to 12-2.
The Flucos tacked on three more runs in the fifth inning and added another in the seventh to stretch the lead to 16-7. The Tigers scored three runs in their final at bat, but it wasn’t enough as Algieri got the final batter to ground out to senior Ryan Groome.
The team celebrated with the customary team dog pile near the pitching mound.
Throughout the season, Fluvanna had a mantra of “unfinished business” following last year’s loss to Abingdon in the state semifinals. Gray kept the team motivated this spring by printing up T-shirts with the state with the number 136.2 in the middle of it signifying the number of miles from the school to Kiwanis Field.
“We never doubted that we could get back here,” Gray said. “We had some breaks. We were on the ropes a couple of times, but we got back. These guys are baseball players to the core and coaching is easy when you’re got kids like this.”
After the game, Critzer couldn’t help but smile when hearing the two words that will now be used to describe this Fluvanna County baseball team going forward.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s getting there,” Critzer said. “Just knowing that this is going to be my last high school game and come out with a state championship, it captures it all.”