Royals’ season ends on historic 23-2 mark
By Nicholas Vandeloecht
Posted Jun 9, 2017 at 1:43 PM
Updated Jun 9, 2017 at 1:53 PM
CHANTILLY - The Royals’ historic 2017 campaign came to a close in a hard-fought 5A state semifinals contest. Halifax defeated Prince George 2-0.
Prince George Baseball concluded the year on a school-record 23 wins and two losses. The Royals in 2017 won both the Conference 12 and Region 5A South Championships and made their first known appearance in the state tournament.
“It’s like a lot of people say: we finally broke the ice,” said Prince George Baseball head coach Mickey Roberts. “Next year, we’ve got to want more. I hate to be standing here today telling you, ‘Yeah, we’re gonna go get them next year,’ but yeah, that’s what we’re gonna do. We’ve got to build on what we’ve done this year.”
The Royals on Friday went up against the best pitcher they’d faced all year. Andrew Abbott, a UVA signee and the Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year, capped his high school pitching career with a gem of a game. He threw a two-hit shutout for the complete game victory, struck out 11 batters and walked no one.
“They were a good team,” Abbott said of Prince George. “We knew we were gonna have to battle with them and hopefully jump out on top, keep them down.”
Abbott attacked the strike zone and matched fastballs reaching 88-plus miles per hour with curveballs, changeups and good location.
“I did my job throwing strikes and my whole team was behind me,” Abbott said. “We were hitting - Josh Barker got some key hits for us in that game.”
The Comets scored their two runs on mirroring approaches in the second and sixth innings. Drew Harlow in both frames reached first base, advanced to second off of a teammate’s sacrifice at first and scored off of doubles that were hammered deep into the left and right field corners by clutch hitter Josh Barker.
Batting eighth, Barker followed up his winning efforts in the region quarterfinals and semifinals on walk-off RBI singles in extra innings with both of the Comets’ RBI against Prince George.
“We work hard in practice and I’ve just been seeing good pitches,” Barker said.
The Royals threatened to tie the game in the fourth inning. Tevin Tucker got the Royals’ first base hit of the game and stole both second and third bases against one out. But the Comets notched a strikeout and a flyout to strand Tucker on third.
“[Halifax head coach Kenneth] Day’s always told us at the beginning of the year that, when a guy gets in scoring position, it shows who you really are,” Abbott said. “You have to bear down and not let him get any further than where they are, and I knew that if we were 1-1 going in later, then it was going to be a rough game because they had more pitching depth than we do.”
Tucker Majetic also reached first base on a hit in the fifth inning, but got tagged out in a rundown on an attempted steal to second base.
The Royals left just one runner - Tevin Tucker - on base.
But in spite of giving up two runs, the Royals’ defense kept them in the ballgame until the end, stranding 10 Halifax base runners.
“Our pitchers worked out of some jams, they really did,” Roberts said. “I thought we played well defensively. It’s just, you have those days when you run into a guy like [Abbott].”
Jonathan Walton took the loss in six innings pitched, giving up five hits, two runs and three walks and striking out four. Cole Spain in his final high school inning on the mound struck out two, gave up a hit, a walk and no runs and left two runners on base.
Walton and the Royals’ defense pulled out of trouble in the third inning as the Comets left the bases loaded.
Catcher Justin Starke in the game made two stellar throws to Tevin Tucker to get out one runner attempting to steal second and pick off the other, who was trying to get back to the base.
Tucker and Evan Kozen each caught a lineout in the contest.
Prince George Baseball heads into next season stacked with promise as pitcher Walton, catcher Starke and short stop Tevin Tucker headline the players coming back.
“We broke the ice,” Roberts said, “so we need to step up and try to achieve more next year.”