- The quality of baseball is on the rise on the Peninsula
- High school rosters abound with Division I talent
- Several graduates are marking their mark in college
Need a Memorial Day sports escape? Don't want to pull weeds, play golf or wax the Bentley? Then take in a game, or two, of the high school baseball region tournaments gracing our area.
The four teams from the Peninsula and Bay Rivers districts are worth watching.
But the quality extends beyond Menchville, Gloucester, Poquoson and Tabb. Top-flight talent is evident at many high schools — Kecoughtan junior pitcher Jake Cave, who's committed to LSU, is the headliner — and locals are excelling on national-caliber college squads, elevating baseball to near the top of our sports food chain.
Of course, football is the once, present and future king, and to suggest otherwise would be blasphemous. The Peninsula has churned out state champions, college All-Americans and NFL Pro Bowlers for decades.
It would be equally foolish to imply that the Peninsula approaches Southside Hampton Roads' remarkable baseball harvest. Current Major Leaguers Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Cuddyer, David Wright, Mark Reynolds and the Upton brothers hail from across the water.
Soon the Peninsula might boast of a similar crop, with a concentration of prospects at reigning state champions Poquoson and Menchville.
Three Islanders are ticketed for top-20 college programs: senior pitcher Kyle Crockett to Virginia, senior infielder Chad Pinder to Virginia Tech and junior third baseman Tee McConnell to Arizona State. They open Region I tournament play at 2 p.m., Monday against visiting Nottoway.
Monarchs ace Austin Chrismon, 21-2 in his high school career, has signed with East Carolina. His 2011 heir apparent, junior Deshorn Lake, will sift through many major college offers.
That pitching tandem should serve Menchville well as it begins the Eastern Region tournament at 10 a.m., Monday versus Norview at Old Dominion.
Gloucester isn't teeming with marquee recruits — Old Dominion-bound third baseman Joey Burney is the signature player — but the Dukes have won 13 consecutive games entering their 4 p.m., Eastern Region quarterfinal against Maury, also at ODU.
Meanwhile, Tabb's road warriors head to Courtland for a 7:30 p.m., encounter, where the Tigers could lean on pitcher Patrick Corbett, a Radford signee.
The Peninsula's baseball wealth is just as visible on college rosters.
Rebounding from shoulder ailments that derailed his 2009, junior left-hander Cameron Roth emerged as UNC Wilmington's top starter and made second-team All-Colonial Athletic Association. His 2.99 ERA and two home runs allowed in 93.1 innings are, in these aluminum bat times, superb.
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference competition doesn't rate with the CAA, much less the ACC, but Norfolk State junior right fielder John Lynch of Heritage High posted numbers this season that earned him an early-season look from the Peninsula Pilots of the Coastal Plain League. Lynch hit .364, stole 27 bases in 28 attempts and threw out seven baserunners, the latter figure tied for seventh nationally.
While Lynch has a remote chance to be selected in next month's Major League draft, Will Lamb and Ethan Carter likely will be chosen in 2011 and '12, respectively.
Lamb, a sophomore first baseman from York High, hits lead-off for 25th-ranked Clemson. He's batting .301, has stolen 14 bases in as many attempts and has pitched to a 2.45 ERA in 15 relief appearances, without a decision.
A freshman from Menchville, which he led to the Peninsula District's first state baseball championship, the right-handed Carter is 2-0 out of the bullpen for 10th-ranked South Carolina. He's pitched 26.2 innings with 29 strikeouts to an ERA of 5.06.
The emergence of the Peninsula coincides with the rise of Virginia and Virginia Tech, Nos. 1 and 18 in Baseball America's latest poll. Rarely have the Cavaliers and Hokies both finished a season in the top 20 of any sport — it's happened once in football, in 1995, and never in men's basketball.
Witness the signings of Poquoson's Pinder and Crockett, Tech and Virginia are paying more attention to our area. And seamheads with time to burn Monday ought to do the same.
Take yourself out to a ballgame.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime
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