Rarely has Bay Rivers District baseball, softball and soccer experienced such a bittersweet week.
Those four district sports combined for three Region I titles and seven of the eight available spots in the Group AA state quarterfinals. Those are among the district's best numbers since the region expanded in 1998 to include a third district.
The 2011 season featured a changing of the guard, as York replaced two-time defending AA state champion Poquoson as the district's top dog. The Falcons won the district by three games behind the bat of Nic Futrell, who batted better than .500 and had 40 RBI, along with the pitching arms of a deep staff led by starter T.J. Rinoski (9-2) and closer Tim Kelly.
Jamestown and Poquoson tied for second at 13-5, with Jamestown earning a regional berth. Preseason favorite Tabb won the district tournament in what might have been a farewell gift to longtime coach Doug Baggett, joining Jamestown and York in the regional tournament. The district stumbled in the state tournament, with Jamestown falling to Broad Run 5-2 in the quarterfinals and York losing to Northside 6-4 in the semifinals.
Young Grafton should be tough next year if its pitching arms continue to develop, and Jamestown is a definite threat to win the district title with two quality pitchers and four returning starters who batted .365 or better. But, with Rinoski and Kelly among plenty of talent expected back, York should start 2012 as the favorite.
With most of the starting lineup from last year's state semifinalists returning, Jamestown entered 2011 as the favorite and lived up to expectations. The Eagles got 25 goals and 13 assists from reigning state Player of the Year Patrick O'Brien, went 9-0 in the district and won all 13 games versus Bay Rivers competition en route to the regional title.
But none of that came as easily, as six of those 13 victories against district teams came by one goal. The Eagles survived close games against Justen Silva-led Lafayette, Grafton-led Jalon Brown and Tabb-led Sean Christein to emerge at the top of the district heap.
Despite failing to reach the state final, district boys can hold their heads high after a stellar postseason that included Jamestown beating Tabb 3-2 for the regional title. The Eagles gave perennial state champ Blacksburg a tough go in a 4-2 state semifinal loss, while Tabb could have, and perhaps should have, beaten undefeated Jefferson Forest before going down 1-0 in the state semis.
Jamestown will again be the favorite next year, with likely returnees in Hunter Hartnett (16 goals) and Dan Geyer (10 goals, 10 assists) up front, Jon Cullom and Patrick Kelly in the middle, and Phil Geyer and Drew Freidrichs on defense. Lafayette leads the list of teams that will be lining up to challenge the Eagles, while Grafton could be tough if it comes even close to making up for the loss of the talented Brown.
The title race was the closest in district history, with four teams finishing within one game of first place. Warhill, which had never won a district title of any kind in its four years of existence, finished the Bay Rivers season unbeaten (7-0-2) to win it by a half-game.
The Lions, led by the high-scoring duo of Ashley Williams and Chelsea Wolfe, added a first-ever regional title with a 2-0 victory over district tournament champion Jamestown. Both advanced to the AA state tournament, but were beaten by Region II schools in the quarterfinals.
Look for the district race to be crowded again in 2012. With Williams, star defender Heather Howell and goalkeeper Sam Hobe among the graduates, Warhill faces a challenge repeating. That's particularly true because Tabb, which tied for second with Grafton and advanced to the regionals, could return its entire starting line lineup: first-team all-region selections Bri Jasenak, Sydney Omweg and Diana Kinney included.
If anything, a young York team could join Grafton and Jamestown in adding to traffic in the drive for the top.
The district went eight-deep in competitive teams, but the four with the best pitchers – New Kent (Renee Silver), Poquoson (Maggie Tyler), York (Hannah Winfree) and Grafton (Holly Huskey) – prevailed in the pitching dominated sport.
Silver and New Kent survived a tight regular season race, winning by a game over York and Poquoson. Poquoson won the district tournament as the incomparable Tyler – who also hit better than .400 and had five home runs – threw shutouts in all three games.
But it was York that had the best postseason in advancing to the state quarters, where it lost 2-1 to eventual finalist Woodgrove – behind Winfree's hot pitching hand.
Tyler, Winfree and Huskey all should return next season, so their teams probably start with an edge over a New Kent team that should still hover near the top. Poquoson returns a bunch, so it starts as a slight favorite, but York should be right there.
Bay Rivers teams look to 2012 after bittersweet ending to this season
Tim Kelly will return to York for his senior year next spring