Heavyweights Battle for Conference 23 Crown



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By Jon Kaufman
Contributor

Baseball is a great game. Both teams must have their times at bat and in the field, and you cannot foul someone ready to dunk or step out of bounds to stop the clock, because there is no clock. Yesterday, in Lynchburg, the purity of baseball was on display, when local rivals, both ranked in PBR’s Virginia/DC Power 25, the No. 9 Jefferson Forest Cavilers met the No. 3 Liberty Christian Academy Bulldogs.

The 4A West Conference 23 crown was at stake and both teams were ready for battle.  Senior right hander Zach Fuqua took the mound for LCA and junior left hander Cody Whitten got the ball for the Cavs.

Fuqua had little trouble in the first, striking out the first three batters of the game in just twelve pitches. Whitten penned a smooth inning in the bottom of the first and the contest was on. Each team stayed scoreless until the visitors fourth when Camdyn Smith (JMU) rifled a single up the middle to open the inning. Matt Marshall ripped a one out single and Zach Coates knocked in the game’s only run for quite a while.

Fuqua had a short start, just two and a third innings, and was followed by Austin Roach, Pierce Howard, and Garret Price (Liberty), all of which held the Cavs to that single run in the fourth. In the meantime the Cavs’ Cody Whitten was having his way with the LCA line-up. Featuring a pinpoint fastball, curve and fading slider, Whitten took a no-hitter into the final inning with six strikeouts, five coming in a row.

DH Zach Hess (LSU) led off the seventh blasting a soaring shot towards the left field fence. Left fielder Sean Burch raced to the fence and crashed into the obstruction at the very second the ball arrived in his glove. The ball hit the ground, the no-hitter gone for Whitten and Hess standing on second base representing the tying run.

Whitten was not able to coral Hunter Johnson's bunt that moved Hess to third and the LCA fans were on their feet. Conner Austin lined a fly ball to right field, scoring Hess to tie the score at one run apiece, but the Bulldogs were not done as of yet. Reserve Christian Gordon entered the game to run for Johnson who moved to second on the throw home. Garret Price, the pitcher of record came to the plate with two outs and a chance to win the game and capture the win on the mound as well. With the count at 1-1 Price drilled a hard ground ball into the hole between shortstop and third base as Gordon motored around third, scoring the winning run.

Whitten was magnificent in defeat and deserved a better fate and LCA and Jefferson Forest both advance to the next round of playoffs. There may not be two better high school baseball teams in Southwest Virginia, we wish them well on their quest for a State Championship.

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