Hopewell's Successful Season Ends In Region
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jun 3, 2014, 09:14
Conference 26 Player of the Year Trent Scott returns next season for a Hopewell team which returns plenty of players from a championship-winning team.
HOPEWELL — When Hopewell defeated Huguenot last week to reach the Conference 26 Tournament Championship game where they would capture the title with a win over Thomas Jefferson, they also clinched a region tournament appearance which was a significant milestone. The Blue Devils baseball program has produced good players each year, but placed in a tough Central District, Hopewell had not played in a playoff game since 2004.
The Conference 26 Tournament title run in which they received good pitching — Will Avery tossed a one-hitter — timely hitting and played great defense earned them a home Region Tournament game and increased their confidence heading into a 3A East Quarterfinal clash with New Kent. After all, Hopewell had taken care of business with a conference title, and were sending Conference 26 Player of the Year Trent Scott to the hill.
However, after a first inning in which the Trojans plated two runs off of a double from Trey Cox and a single from Chris Beshai, Hopewell found themselves in the unenviable task of playing catch-up which has been a struggle for the team all season long. Unfortunately, the script did not change against New Kent.
Hopewell's Cameron Hill and Trent Scott would reach base in the bottom of the 1st inning, putting runners on first and second with just one out for Roman Acord and Will Avery. However, Acord would strike out and Avery's hard-hit liner was snared by the Trojans' shortstop.
And that would be how the game progressed as Hopewell created chances to score, but rarely recorded the big-hit when needed with the exception of Hill's two-run triple in the 5th inning which temporarily pulled the Blue Devils within three runs of the Trojans. After playing three games in a span of four days, Hopewell didn't have the same sharpness they showed throughout the conference tournament and it would cost them in an eventual 9-3 season-ending loss to New Kent.
"We've been there before and done that," Hopewell manager Bobby Pershing said after his team struggled with runners in scoring position. "Give New Kent all the credit. They put runners in scoring position and had some key hits. We had a couple of errors which didn't help our cause, but our kids played hard and played with confidence ... I don't think we were played bad, I just thought New Kent was the better team today."
But the Blue Devils' loss in the Region Tournament does not erase all they have accomplished during the course of the season.
Prior to the season, not much was known about the young Blue Devils. There weren't many seniors lining the roster and much of the young players would have to develop over the course of the season for it to be successful. It was a tall task, indeed.
Yet, Hopewell proved to be up to the challenging assignment. Freshman Cameron Hill became an immediate impact player at the top-of-the-lineup with his plate discipline and ability to hit the ball for extra bases, earning him an All-Conference nod. Neeyamyah Nunez started the season off slow as he struggled with his timing, but he would also become a key cog in the Hopewell batting order.
Nunez would show off the ability to work the count, foul off tough pitches and line mistakes down the right or left field lines for extra bases. And much like Nunez heated up as the season went on, so did the Blue Devils. While one may not have seen it from the results — Hopewell entered the conference tournament losers of seven of their last eight — but they had played their best baseball through the stretch.
It's why even as the Blue Devils walked off the field after realizing their season had ended, the loss didn't dictate a season in which the team improved from the first to last game of the season.
"I tell them if you look at where we were to where we are now — we're one of the few teams that are still playing," Pershing said of what he told his team. "I think we've made great improvements and have played our best baseball at the end of the season against some good teams ... I'm proud of them."
Cameron Hill leaves a pile of dust on a slide into third base for a two-run triple of his during Hopewell's Region Quarterfinal game against New Kent.
And he's also excited about the Conference 26 Champion's future.
With a significant core of players returning which includes Scott, the Player of the Year, Hill, Nunez, and second-team All-Conference player Jordan Lowe among others, makes this season a building block for Hopewell. The Blue Devils endured a tough campaign where struggles turned into doubts, but continued to improve all season long.
It's why Pershing could not hide his excitement about the future of the program with junior varsity players ready to make an impact next season for a team already built to once again be a contender in Conference 26.
"We lose four seniors, two of them starters for us, but I think we can reload next year," Pershing said. "We've got some good players coming the JV team and a few kids from the middle school team and I'm all for starting a youth movement here. If we have freshman and sophomores who can play, the more experience we can get them the better off we'll be at the end of the year."
After a season in which Hopewell earned the Conference 26 Championship, the ground work is set for more success to follow with a young team continuing to develop their talent while learning what it takes to win consistently.