|The Loudoun Valley Vikings broke out offensively and received another stellar performance from junior pitcher Justin Ager to defeat John Champe 9-2 in the Conference 28 baseball tournament final.—Times-Mirror/Carl Lukat|
Hunter Gore stepped to the plate in the first inning of the Conference 28 tournament championship game with his walk-up music "This Is How We Roll" playing. Gore proceeded to show how he rolls on the baseball diamond.
The junior catcher belted a low inside fastball over the right-field fence for a three-run homer that kickstarted host Loudoun Valley to a 9-0 victory against John Champe in the conference title game May 29 in Purcellville.
The blast puts Gore's name in the Viking record book as the first varsity player to hit a ball out of Valley's new onsite baseball diamond. The Vikings previously played at Fireman's Field.
"It felt pretty good. I was pretty relaxed at the plate, just trying to get those runs in the best I could," said Gore, who showed off his arm the following inning by throwing out a potential base stealer at second base. "It wasn't square off the barrel, but I put a little muscle behind it. I'll take it."
The Vikings will take it as well. The reigning VHSL 3A state champions have once again produced stellar pitching and defense this season. The Viking offense, on the other hand, has been inconsistent.
"Offensively, we finally got some good things going. We needed a big hit," Valley coach Wayne Todd said. "We've been talking all week that if we can just get that one big hit, everyone will relax. I think that's what happened."
Senior Sam Urban added to the offensive punch in the second inning, delivering a two-run single to right with two outs to plate Kyle Bowles and Kurtis Meyer. The Vikings (19-2) added solo runs in the third, fifth and sixth innings for the final 9-0 margin.
Juniors Adam Lockhart, Trey McDyre and Matt Eberhart, and senior Andrew Lohr aided Valley's offensive output.
"In practice, we've been talking about every one needs to get hot at once," Gore said. "Starting to get runs in is going to be a big step for the team. It's going to get contagious."
The run support was more than enough for Justin Ager. The Viking junior pitched six scoreless innings, striking out five and allowing just two hits and two walks. Lohr tossed a scoreless seventh inning to close out the win.
"A really good pitching performance. He gives us that every time out," Todd said of Ager. "He had really good stuff tonight, good breaking pitch and good velocity on his fastball."
Gore added, "He was throwing some cheddar with his fastball, some of those guys couldn't catch up with it. It was nice sitting back there catching him."
John Champe (14-8) defeated Rock Ridge and Warren County to advance to the conference final in just its third year as a program. The Knights, coached by Joe McDonald, received hits from junior Matthew Newell and sophomores Matt Ryan and Yareb Martinez versus Valley.
As conference finalists, both teams advance to the 3A East Region baseball tournament. Valley will host Culpeper and Champe travels to Nokesville to play Kettle Run on June 1 in quarterfinal round games.