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The best of 2011-2012: As ace, Carroll held all cards in big year
Editor’s note: All this week, The Free Lance-Star is recapping the top five sports stories of the school year.
No. 5 story: The rise of Fredericksburg Christian’s basketball team.
No. 4 story: Colonial Forge’s wrestling team finishes back on top at the state tournament.
No. 3: After coaching Courtland’s boys to a state basketball title, J.T. Nino switches gears and leads the girls to the state final.
No. 2: Damion Carroll pitches King George into the state baseball playoffs—and himself into the pro draft.
BY ADAM HIMMELSBACH
For King George baseball coach Thad Reviello, one of the most memorable moments of this season took place on a bus rather than a baseball field.
The Foxes were en route to their Group AA state quarterfinal at Powhatan, and they were focused on both the game and their cellphones.
The team’s star pitcher, Damion Carroll, was likely to be chosen in the Major League Baseball draft that day, and his teammates were tracking the draft’s progress closely as their bus hummed down the highway.
“All of a sudden, I see Damion’s face light up,” Reviello recalled. “And as soon as he hung up the phone, it was like a mob scene on that bus.”
The Tampa Bay Rays had selected Carroll in the sixth round. Although King George ultimately lost its state quarterfinal—it was its first state tournament appearance in 38 years—it did not dampen Carroll’s historic season.
He went 8–0 with 131 strikeouts, and he was just as menacing at the plate, batting .420 with seven home runs. He was named district, regional and state player of the year, and he was The Free Lance–Star’s co-player of the year.
Carroll signed a seven-year contract with Tampa Bay last month, and last Saturday he pitched a scoreless inning in his professional début with the Rays’ Gulf Coast League team.
The odds of reaching the major leagues are stacked against most draft picks, but Reviello said he believes Carroll has a strong chance because of his potential and his durability.
Many young pro pitchers, Reviello said, can reach the low 90s with their fastballs before tiring late in a game. Carroll has just as much power in the seventh inning as he does in the first.
“His undeniable stamina gives him a better-than-average chance,” Reviello said.
Whenever Carroll took the mound for King George this year, he gave his team a better-than-average chance. And he dominated despite the pressures to succeed, pressures he was reminded of each time he peered into the bleachers and saw scouts with their radar guns.
“The first game, the scouts kind of affected me,” Carroll said. “Then I kind of blocked it out and didn’t care anymore.”
Of course, Carroll still struck out 16 batters in that first game against Washington & Lee, making it clear he would be unaffected by scouts or anyone else during this memorable season.
Adam Himmelsbach: 540/374-5442