By Curtis Atkinson
Lynchburg (June 13, 2015) – It’s a good thing Loudoun Valley High School seniors Jack DeGroat and Sam Urban are committed to the Liberty University baseball team next year. If they weren’t, the coaches may not let them leave campus.
Last year, the tandem led the Vikings to their first state championship in baseball since 1972.
On June 12 of this year, they put them in position to do it again, earning a 6-0 win over Rustburg High School in a VHSL 3A state semifinal in Lynchburg.
In his final pitching appearance in a Vikings’ uniform, DeGroat shook off some early jitters to dominate an over matched Red Devils’ line up with a fastball that hit 95 miles per hour en route to striking out a career high 17.
After walking the first two batters, DeGroat settled in and set up shop on the outside corner with a fastball that hovered around 93 mph.
“I was all jacked up at the beginning,” DeGroat said, “But after the first two or three innings I settled myself down and found the zone.”
The last twelve outs of the game came on strikeouts as DeGroat found his curveball in the fourth, and it was game over from there: all this against a dangerous Rustburg line up that had 19 total home runs on the season.
“I don’t think they’d seen anybody like DeGroat,” Loudoun Valley head coach Wayne Todd said. “You don’t ever know. Big kids, big swingers, hit a lot of home runs, must be playing on a porch because they ain’t hitting it out of here, and they ain’t catching up to that.”
“They finally barreled up two fastballs,” DeGroat said, “But I was able to get the curveball working around then so they weren’t able to time it up.”
DeGroat isn’t the only Viking who will be a Division I Flame next year, and if the state tournament is any indication, Urban will be a big-time playmaker for Liberty during his college career.
After going 2-for 3-with three RBI on June 12, Urban is now 6-for-9 with six career RBI on Liberty’s home field.
“I’m playing my best baseball here,” Urban said when asked if he felt at home on the Flames’ baseball field.
He came up with the bases loaded in the fourth and drilled a two-RBI single that pretty much put the game away for the Vikes.
“I saw a strike and got a little fooled on a curveball,” Urban said. “I was hoping I’d get a fastball, and I sat back and got it and went straight to it.”
The Vikings only suffered one strikeout on the night, continually putting the ball in play and putting stress on the Rustburg defense — which was up to the challenge considering only Urban and second baseman Kurtis Meyer tallied multi-hit games.
Meyer went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI and was a constant catalyst Valley desperately needed in their line up. Meyer was on base all night and allowed the Vikings to turn over the line up time and again.
“I was just going up there looking fastball,” Meyer said. “It’s one of the most important things to do. Get up there, be someone who can get on base, get base hits and get the top of the line up back up.”
Now the only thing that stands between Valley and a repeat performance as state champions is a Lafayette High School team they saw for three innings in the VHSL 3A East region championship game that was called due to weather.
The Rams defeated Monticello, 11-0, in the other VHSL 3A state semifinal and despite the limited exposure, Todd knows Lafayette will be a worthy opponent to battle for another ring.
“I thought we might see them again,” Todd said. “They’re a pretty good team: well coached and they can swing it. I’m always concerned about an opponent, which I think is a good thing. We’ll find out tomorrow.”
The Vikings will turn the ball over to pitcher 1A in their rotation — Justin Ager — as he looks to do what DeGroat did last season on this stage: follow up a dominating pitching performance with one of his own and deliver Loudoun Valley their first baseball state championship since — last season.
Curtis Atkinson is the Area Director for Western Loudoun Young Life and an avid Western Loudoun sports fan. Follow LoCoSports on Twitter (@LoCoSports) for up-to-date news and scores from around Loudoun County.