The Kettle Run baseball team, winner of seven consecutive games, does not lack for motivation this season. Six of the team’s eight seniors have been starters at the fourth-year school since they were freshmen. They have been one win from a Virginia AA state berth each of the past two seasons. And many last fall played on the football team that went undefeated before a loss in the Division 3 state semifinals.
If that were not enough incentive, assistant Greg Brown has shown the Cougars the state championship ring he won with Madison in 2002.
“They’re not only battle-tested, it’s the decisions that they make, the way they work in practice,” Kettle Run Coach Ty Thorpe said of his team’s maturity. “We don’t have to be as hands-on because they know what’s expected of them and they do it. Most of these guys are self-motivators. You can’t say enough about how good a group they are.
“We’re just trying to make sure they stay fresh. It’s getting to be that time of year and you don’t want senioritis to kick in.”
Kettle Run (12-3, 6-0) needs a win over Liberty on Friday or Fauquier on Tuesday to clinch the regular season title in the five-team Evergreen District.
The Cougars are in that position thanks in great part to their top pitchers — seniors Connor Adams, Luke Palese, Cody Pierce and Mac Graham and junior Donnie Forgacs. Adams is 3-0 with a 0.35 ERA and threw a no-hitter against Warren County.
Junior second baseman Marc Henry, the team’s leadoff batter, is hitting .367 with 12 steals. Adams has 13 RBI. Senior right fielder Josh Leonard is batting .345 and has driven in 11 runs out of the ninth spot in the order.
Kettle Run went 4-3 against Virginia AAA competition last season, with one-run losses to Herndon and South County, and 3-2 against AAA teams this season, including a 2-1 loss to Robinson, a 2-0 win over Broad Run and a split with Freedom-South Riding.
Those were meaningful games. But it’s the dates not yet on the schedule — potential Region II tournament matchups — that beckon. The Cougars lost to Potomac Falls and Broad Run in the last two Region II semifinals.
“We know what it feels like to come close and not get there,” Thorpe said. “So that’s a little bit of drive for them.”