Sherando junior first baseman Jordan Gibson sent two balls deep over the right field fence while taking batting practice last night at Fireman's Field in Purceville in preparation for the Warriors' Virginia AA Region II baseball semifinal against host Loudoun Valley.
He took the third pitch he saw once the game had officially started and drove it to the exact same spot.
"I don't know if I saw that as an omen," Gibson said of the pre-game blasts. "But that's definitely not normal."
Gibson's two-run homer in the top of the second inning was just the beginning for Sherando (17-8), which parlayed that early lead into a 12-4 victory. The win advances the Warriors, who have won nine of their past 11 games, to Friday's regional final at Fauquier, which beat Stone Bridge, 7-6, in 11 innings.
"I didn't know a whole lot about them coming in," said Loudoun Valley Coach Wayne Todd, whose team finished the season 21-5. "What I know now is that they swing their bats really well."
Senior Grant Derflinger matched Gibson's effort in the second inning, just three batters later, with a two-run shot of his own that sailed over the left field fence. In all Sherando spread 11 hits off four Vikings pitchers, getting seven of those from the last three spots in the lineup.
Derflinger, batting eighth, led all efforts, going 2 for 2 with a double, a homer and 4 RBI. He also reached on an error and scored three runs.
Senior catcher Jamie Tucker, batting ninth, went 2 for 3 with 2 RBI.
"The last time I was part of a team that went to states was at James Wood in 1985," Sherando Coach Pepper Martin said. "We got on a roll at the end of the season there, too, and the key to it was a different player in the lineup was stepping up every night. This team is very similar in that way. In the last six or seven games we have not had the same offensive stars."
Eagles Take Next Step
Colonial Forge senior shortstop Randy Hippeard and his veteran teammates had lost in the Virginia AAA Northwestern Region baseball quarterfinals two years ago and in the semifinals last year.
Last night they took the next step by blanking Stonewall Jackson, 9-0, in a region semifinal to reach the title game and qualify for the state tournament for the first time in the program's five-year history.
Colonial Forge (17-5) banged out 13 hits and committed just one error behind junior right-hander James Yahnert, who tossed a five-hitter, struck out four and walked none. Yahnert recorded 13 outs on ground balls.
Colonial Forge will host Halifax, which beat Hylton, at 6 p.m. Friday in the region championship. Both teams have clinched state tournament berths. Stonewall finished 10-13.
"The last couple years at this time, tomorrow we'd be handing in our stuff," said Hippeard, who went 3 for 4 and had a hand in eight outs defensively. "We just didn't want to get that feeling any more."
Seniors Eddie Rubbo and Jack Ferrick and juniors Justin Doyle and Jeff Jones each had two hits. Doyle and Jones each knocked in two runs. The Eagles had lost their final regular season game to North Stafford, their only district blemish to that point, then fell to Stafford in the district final.
Panthers Play Well Enough
The Potomac Falls girls' soccer team is not quite playing at the level Coach Kris Kelican would like at this point in the season. But the Panthers played well enough to cruise to a 4-1 win over visiting Brentsville last night in a Virginia AA Region II semifinal game in Sterling.
Juniors Lauren Malan, Emily McDonald, Claire Grubbs and senior Jenna Martin all scored for the Panthers (18-1-2), as they clinched a berth in the state tournament and a championship rematch with rival Broad Run. Broad Run beat Fauquier in the other region semifinal last night.
Potomac Falls outshot Brentsville, 16-5, but the Panthers weren't able to pull away until the second half.
"We did get a lot of opportunities, but we let too many of them go by," Kelican said. "I still don't think we've played our best yet."
The Panthers dominated the first half, taking the early lead when Malan scored on a long shot from the right side. But Brentsville (17-3-1) got a penalty kick in the 22nd minute, and junior Bonnie Cary tied the game at 1.
McDonald gave the Panthers the lead for good when she got a breakaway, made a couple of nifty moves around defenders and scored in the 33rd minute.
Grubbs headed in a pass from junior Kristina Guinter in the 50th minute, and Martin added her goal with three minutes left in the game.
Everhart Powers Vikings
Third-ranked Loudoun Valley, the reigning Virginia AA softball champion, ensured itself of an opportunity to defend that title with 1-0 victory over Broadway in a Region II semifinal yesterday in Purceville.
Junior second baseman Jessica Everhart took the first pitch she saw deep over the center field fence for a solo home run in the bottom of the second inning.
Everhart, the Vikings' starting shortstop last season, was forced to swap positions with her twin sister, Jennifer, after undergoing surgery in September to repair a torn labrum in her throwing shoulder.
Everhart said the injury, which is usually associated with pitchers and quarterbacks, is still only about 85 percent healed
That, though, hasn't prevented her from working her way back into the number four spot of Loudoun Valley's potent lineup.
"I saw that the first pitch to every batter before me had been a strike, and then once the pitcher got ahead that's when she'd go high," Everhart said. "So I decided before I got up there, that instead of waiting I was going to jump on the first pitch I saw . . . and it worked."
Special correspondent Sean P. Flynn contributed to this report.