Colonials Dealt A Lesson
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jun 2, 2014, 12:38
Noah Murdock is the Colonials' ace and will be just a junior next season.
COLONIAL HEIGHTS — The Colonials entered the 2014 season knowing they did not have the type of experience other teams in their conference would have. Colonial Heights had just four seniors lining a roster filled with sophomores and juniors, but knew the key to their success would depend on how quickly the younger players develop over the course of the season.
And as the season came to an end last week, first-year manager Gerald Carsley could see his team made tremendous strides over the course of the season. The inexperienced Colonials raced out of the gates in the early part of the season, winning six of their first eight games to solidify themselves as one of the better teams in the area.
But from that point, the campaign took an up-and-down turn the rest of the way. While the Colonials would not lose more than two games in a row over the final 12 games, they also couldn't string more than two wins together, resulting in a two-steps forward, two-step back philosophy which hurt them entering the Conference 25 Tournament.
If the Colonials could have managed a few more wins — they suffered a one-run and two-run losses to Dinwiddie — they could have been bestowed as one of the top two seeds in the conference tournament, but instead they entered as No. 3 seed. Although the No. 3 seed allowed them to host a playoff game, they also had to face a No. 6 seeded Poquoson team which played a lot better than a usual bottom seed.
With ace Noah Murdock on the hill, the Colonials were confident they could one step closer to the final, but it was not to be. The Islanders' Brandon Pinder belted two-run home run in the 1st inning and it would be a foreshadowing of events to unfold. Poquoson would tack on 11 more runs, knock Murdock out of the game in the 3rd and leave the Colonials shellshocked after the contest was over in a 13-5 loss.
As the team gathered along the third base line while Carsley addressed his team, they couldn't help but be disappointed in the result, but a fire remained in their eyes. They knew at that very moment, the loss was just the beginning and had already turned the page to next season after a successful campaign.
"We have four seniors who are moving, but the core part of this team is returning," Carsley said after the loss. "We're excited about that and wish all our seniors the best. They're definitely going to be missed, but you always have to like having a large part of your team returning."
And that returning contingent included an entire pitching rotation, three out of four infielders on any given night and two outfielders who helped form the nucleus of a team that is set up for success next season.
The Colonials' season may not have ended the way they envisioned it — players spoke before the season of a want to reach the championship game — they earned some valuable experience through the disappointments. No longer will Colonial Heights be an inexperienced team next season, but a battle-tested group which should be expected to contend for a conference crown.
Jayson Maitland supplied great defense and top-of-the-order hitting as the team's starting shortstop.
After all, there is no substitute for experience and after reaching postseason play and suffering the disappointment, the hunger will be there for a talented squad. It's a lesson learned for the Colonials both on and off the field about growing up and the way they will deal with adversity. It's exactly what Carsley alluded to in his season-ending address to the team.
"We just talked about being a man. That's a life lesson," Carsley explained. "If someone punches you in the mouth, are you going to fold or are you going to give it all you got?"
That will be the sentiment the Colonials come back to as they play summer ball and prepare for the next season coming up. Poquoson delivered the first punch to the Colonials and the key is for them to learn the lesson and come back stronger.
It starts with Murdock who sets the tone from the mound as the ace of the staff. The 6-foot-6 right-hander continued his development over the course of the season, learning to change speeds more and hone in on his command rather than overpower hitters. The UVA commit tossed a no-hitter against Southampton and earned key wins over the course of the season.
Then, it continues with the infield duo of Seth Markins and Jayson Maitland. Their solid defense in the field — the two rarely made errors — combined with their ability to hit any pitcher and jumpstart the offense were keys all season along. And it even falls to Zach Stoupa who showed off tremendous power in his bat by blasting long home runs, but struggled to make contact at other points. All need to continue to take the next step in their development for the Colonial Heights' program to do the same and Carsley has no doubts they will.
"I know they're going to work hard," Carsley said. "This is a group of kids that always worked, so I don't anticipate that changing. It's why I told the older guys to instill their work-ethic into the younger guys and they've done that."
It's why as the Colonials' season came to an end, one couldn't help to look on the field and not see a lost opportunity, but a lesson learned on the path to a greater result in the coming years.