FLS Varsity brings you the scores, stats and stories from Fredericksburg-area high school sports.
BASEBALL NOTEPAD: Young Cyclones playing like vets
With 12 new players on its roster, Eastern View may be a team in transition this season. But lately, the defending Battlefield District champions haven’t played like one.
After a shaky 1–4 start, coach Daniel Nobbs’ revamped squad reeled off five straight victories prior to Wednesday’s visit to talented William Monroe.
The Cyclones completed a successful two-game road trip to North Carolina, and then used the strong pitching of junior A.J. Stead to hand Conference 22 pacesetter Fauquier its first league loss on Tuesday.
The 5–2 victory vaulted Eastern View (6–4, 3–2) into the thick of the race for one of the conference’s top spots, along with King George (7–2, 4–1). The Cyclones host the Foxes in a key clash on Friday afternoon.
Earlier this month, the Foxes won a 5–4 decision after Stead and King George ace Lane Ward locked up in a pitcher’s duel for six innings. Both Stead (4–1, 1.05 ERA) and Ward have already tossed no-hitters this year.
“We’re still in search of ourselves as a team, but I really feel like we are beginning to find out who we are,” said Nobbs, the only coach the Cyclones have ever had. “When we were 1–4, it was a real test for us.”
Stead, catcher Austin Huff and shortstop Nate Yates have been key cogs in the recent turnaround. They’ve helped fill the void left by the loss of Battlefield District Player of the Year Justin Gardiner and all-state catcher Ben Pittman.
But the emergence of several newcomers, including sophomore pitcher David Laird and infielders Stuart Paz and Chayton Lukkes have been just as big. Lukkes collected two hits and drove in a run in Tuesday’s important win over the Falcons.
“[Lukkes] has a chance to be a really good player and could be the first true power hitter we’ve had here,” said Nobbs. “He’s really coming into his own.”
So is Laird, who has been a pleasant addition on the mound and at the plate, where he is hitting a team-best .540. During the North Carolina trip, he went the distance and struck out eight in a 2–1 victory over East Wake High School.
“The trip to North Carolina was a good way for us to grow,” said Nobbs. “We had a chance to put a lot of guys into some new roles, and we were able to solidify some things.”
If things continue to solidify as Nobbs hopes, this team has the potential to make some noise again. During the past five seasons, the Cyclones have won four district championships and hosted two regional playoff games.