Tigers’ seniors rely on lessons from 2019 in a state tournament appearance | Sports

For Shady Spring’s David Young, the Tigers’ 2019 state tournament berth served as a motivational springboard to a senior postseason he won’t soon forget.

But it had little to do with what happened on the field, or for that matter, the field at all.

Young didn’t even dress for the game in which Bridgeport scored eight runs in the fifth to win 9-2 in the Class AA semifinals on a Friday morning.

But it provided the impetus for Young’s stellar postseason run that saw him get the final three outs in an 8-2 win over Independence in the sectional championship – including strikeouts of first-team all-staters Atticus Goodson and Clay Basham – and going the distance in a 6-5 win against Bluefield in the Region 3 championship. Both games were on the road.

Now the Tigers (26-9) are back in Charleston where they will face No. 1 seed Logan Thursday at 4:30 pm

“They hung a banner of the regional championship at the place we practice (The Yard) and I’m not on that banner because I didn’t dress for regionals,” Young said. “So every time I go there it’s a little bit more motivation to do better. I would work out there, sometimes just me and my dad, so I would be in that position, holding that (regional) trophy in that picture.”

Young is one of four seniors on this year’s team who were members of the 2019 team, along with Josh Lovell, Alex Johnston and Walker Bowman.

Lovell’s brother Justin was a team leader on that 2019 squad, and Josh has taken over that role as a team leader.

In fact, there are plenty of parallels, starting with the fact that the game is in the same slot, 4:30 pm on Thursday, and there is a chance for rain Thursday. That game three years ago was postponed until Friday morning.

But the team is similar as well.

“Me and one of my teammates were talking the other day and saying that there is almost a person (from the 2022 team) that you could put with a person on the 2019 team, and they are almost exactly alike,” Lovell said.

Who would Josh Lovell be?

“Well, the obvious choice is my brother, but I might not like to admit that,” Lovell said. “Me and my brother have a lot of things alike. I think I stepped into his shoes and carried on the same mentality that he had and try to lead this team.”

Cam Manns, who will start Thursday’s game?

“Cam was most like Tommy (Williams),” said Lovell of the former Shady ace, and like Manns was a basketball standout. “He was a big pitcher-only guy and we put him out there when we needed him and that is kind of the role Cam has stepped into this year.”

And Johnston?

“We agreed that Alex was most like Matt St. Clair,” Lovell said. “They are both big power guys. Talked a little bit, didn’t talk too much. They both were bigger guys.”

Johnston, not part of the initial discussion, liked the comparison.

“He definitely was a guy (Johnston looked up to as a freshman),” Johnston said. “He had a lot of power, was a bigger guy so I think that’s a pretty good representation.”

One difference is this team likes to have a little fun, more business casual than the all-business 2019 team.

Back in 2019, after a postponement to the following day, which temporarily cooled everyone’s jets through a delay and ultimately heading to a hotel for the night, it was all business.

Johnston drew team leaders Justin Lovell and Grant Davis as roommates.

“As a freshman on that team when they said it was time for bed then it was time for bed,” Johnston said, smiling. “With this team, we are a little different. We might just go to bed but there also might be a little bit of shenanigans going on.”

What can the team get from the 2019 team?

“Bridgeport has won what, eight straight state championships?” Young began. “(The 2019 team) was able to hold them early with good pitching, good fielding and good hitting. They were playing good baseball until about the fifth or sixth inning and then everything fell apart. If we play team baseball against Logan, I think we’re going to have a good shot.”

Family is also a key.

“It showed us what can come out of really working hard to get there,” Bowman said. “Being in the whole environment of it. Big ballpark, nice field, a lot of people. It showed us that working hard, you get rewarded for it.”

Unfortunately, Covid hit the next season, and a great opportunity for a veteran Shady team was washed away in a much crueler scenario than a postponement.

“That was a whole year of baseball we missed,” Bowman said. “It would have given us another year to grow. Going back (to the state tournament) again, if that had been the case, would have been even better on us, make us look more important (like the perennial contenders).

Now the Tigers will meet one of those perennials, Logan, for a chance to play in the state championship at the school’s seventh state tournament appearance.

And they will lean on those who went before, hoping to lay part of their own legacy on the Tigers baseball program.

“I really looked up to Justin Lovell, and a couple of seniors on that team,” said Young, he of the superb postseason. “They were really good leaders both on and off the field and it showed. Even when they were down, they tried to stay up regardless of the score or the situation. That’s one reason why we got so far.”


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