Baseball: Stuart is on the rise in AAA National District

April 23, 2012

With six regular season games remaining, Stuart already has achieved its greatest win total in at least a decade, thanks in great part to the arrival of a new player and the return of another.

After an 8-0 victory over Hayfield on Friday that avenged an earlier Virginia AAA National District loss to the Hawks, Stuart is 8-5, 6-2 in the district. The Raiders won as many as six games in a season only twice in the past 11 years.

Junior Jack Gomersall tranferred to Stuart from Flint Hill and immediately became the Raiders’ top pitcher and their third batter in the order.

Knowing how much Gomersall could boost the team, fifth-year Stuart Coach Randy Lightle approached senior Ethan Leventhal about rejoining the baseball program after he had spent two years playing lacrosse.

Leventhal, the starting center fielder, is batting .350 — and is still playing lacrosse, as well.

“We’ve got a resurgence in our program,” said Lightle, whose team plays at Mount Vernon on Tuesday. “Jack has made a world of difference. There’s no doubt he’s probably the most talented pitcher I’ve had here. In center, Ethan can get to baseballs that a lot of other kids can’t get to.”

Junior shortstop Chris Clayton and senior catcher Jeremy Leopold, who hit a key two-out, two-run single in the win over Hayfield on Friday, are among other main Raiders. Leopold has a team-high 16 RBI.

Clayton threw a five-hit, 53-pitch (yes, in seven innings) game against Hayfield to tie the teams in the district standings. Seventy percent of his pitches this season have gone for strikes. He fell behind only one Hayfield batter, and Stuart turned two 4-3 double plays on line drives to keep his pitch count down.

Not only have the Raiders won more games than they have in years, they also could win their first district title since 1981, the only crown in the 52-year history of the program.

Stuart lost to National front-runner Yorktown, 5-3, in eight innings April 17 in the teams’ first meeting, and that came on a night when the Raiders walked nine batters and hit two.

Three of Stuart’s losses were to Kentucky teams in a spring break tournament, two by one run.

“We’re doing our best to keep them motivated and saying we’re not done,” Lightle said. “We should not be happy with [our record]. We still have half the district schedule to play.

“We told the kids at the beginning of the season we wanted to finish in the top four [and qualify for regionals]. Now we’re talking to the kids about winning the district.”

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