Courtland and Spotsylvania baseball programs thriving this season

by | Apr 19, 2024 | ALLFFP, High school sports, Sports, Spotsylvania

Courtland and Spotsylvania high schools are separated by a mere eight miles, but the baseball programs were tighter knit than that entering a Battlefield District showdown Thursday night. 

The Cougars and Knights were a combined 17-2 overall and 9-1 in district play before Courtland earned an 11-1 victory on Spotsylvania’s home field. 

Courtland head coach Chris Meek said his team has won in a variety of ways this season, and the Cougars have shown an ability to score early and often, averaging 10.6 runs per game. 

“I like the way we compete,” Meek said. “We’ve won all different types of games. At times we start slow and get a little behind, but we keep competing. We call it ‘chopping wood.’ We keep swinging, keep doing what we believe, what we’ve been taught to do, and it’s been good so far.” 

Courtland senior pitcher Tyler Jackson earned a complete-game victory, allowing one run on four hits. He is the ace of the Cougars’ staff. 

“He’s a bulldog,” Meek said of Jackson. “He gets out there, throws strikes and he’s really efficient with it.” 

The Cougars (9-1, 5-0 Battlefield) also had key contributions from Carlos Santos (three hits), Maddux Rothel (two hits, two RBIs), Grant Wingert (two RBIs), Kellen Bock (three stolen bases) and Tanner Lam (RBI triple) in the win over the Knights. 

That list does not include juniors Nate Jackson and Lucas Miller, who orally committed to Longwood and James Madison universities, respectively. 

Meek said that over the past couple of years, the Cougars developed talented young players, a pipeline that’s now coming to fruition. They have thrived this season despite the transfer of standout pitcher Jackson Garland, a University of Virginia commit, who is now at Mechanicsville High. 

“Different people, every game, step up to the plate,” Meek said. 

Courtland baseball standout Tanner Lam recorded an RBI triple in the Cougars’ win over Spotsylvania Thursday night. (Photo courtesy of Yazmin Santos)

Prior to Thursday’s contest, Spotsylvania (9-2, 5-2) was on a similar trajectory. The Knights were coming off a 7-4 road victory over a Caroline team that reached the Class 3 state championship game in 2023 and returned several key performers. 

The Cougars, however, held down Spotsylvania’s bats, racked up nine hits and scored a combined seven runs in the fourth and seventh innings to cool down the Knights’ hot start to the season. 

“We’ve been playing really well,” Spotsylvania head coach Travis Payne said. “We have 14 guys on the team, and I love being able to coach all 14 of them. They’re positive kids, with a good work ethic. They’re never satisfied. They’re always looking to get better, and they make things fun … I’m really enjoying coaching.” 

Half of the Knights’ players are sophomores, but the lack of experience has not mattered. 

Four of the sophomores were on varsity a year ago as freshmen and three were promoted from the junior varsity squad that won the 2023 district title.  

Noland Alford, a two-time all-district performer, is back on the mound. Payne said sophomore Josh Perez is having a “phenomenal season,” batting .435 and sporting an ERA less than 1.00. 

Sophomore outfielders Braden Hodges and Nate Johnson are both batting over .300, as is shortstop Jake Herbst. 

“We knew we had a lot of talent,” Payne said. “We haven’t won many games over the last three years. We started being around .500 last year and lost a few games at the end of the season. I’ve just been preaching to our kids and talking to them about doing what it takes to win. I’ve been a part of some winning ball teams and want to impart to them what it takes to be a champion.” 

Payne directed the Knights to the 2018 Class 3 state championship. They are now in Class 4 and must trek through a rugged Battlefield District before the Region 4B playoffs. 

The Knights’ other district loss is to an improved Culpeper team. Caroline is also 4-1 in the Battlefield heading into a key contest at Courtland Tuesday night. King George is no slouch either, Payne and Meek said. 

“I’ve been doing this for 16 years now as a player and coach, and it’s Battlefield District baseball. There are a lot of good rivalries,” Payne said. “I keep telling our kids that they can’t take anybody lightly. We’ve just got to keep finding ways to win.” 

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