“Don’t talk the talk unless you can walk the walk” — or support what you say not by words but through actions. That was the motto from the Staunton River High School (SRHS) baseball team, which was coming off a 16-7 record last year and was returning key players while moving up a now talented junior class.
It was a year of high expectations for the team, which was not to be taken lightly. The expectations this year was not just to win at the district or regional level but to win the state tournament. These goals weren’t expected from the fans or the coaches but from the seniors themselves.
All five seniors on the 2020 SRHS baseball team felt that their last year playing together was going to be the year for them to go all the way. Of these five graduates, three of them will continue their careers at the collegiate level. Those three are pitcher/infielder Eddie Blake, infielder/pitcher Collin Bates and infielder/pitcher Jared Mayhew.
“The reason why we felt very confident about our chances of winning state this year is because we as a team were all very dedicated,” Blake said. “The whole team got along, everyone had a role, and they did not argue or complain about their position on the team. Personally, we would have won state this year, no doubt about it.”
His two former teammates felt the same way.
“There was definitely a lot of talk about that. Everyone was doing the little things right, and we had been playing together for a long time, which really helped. I personally believe we would’ve had a really good shot at the state tournament this year if we would’ve had the chance to play,” Mayhew said.
Bates noted that the path was going to be daunting, but he liked his team’s chances of going all the way because of how committed they were.
“With our talent we had on the team and our defensive talents, we did have a huge shot of winning it all, but it’s never easy. I will say that our team this year had outstanding dedication and work ethic. Every day we had conditioning; almost everyone would be there unless they were playing basketball or football. Every time we stepped on the field, we gave it everything we had simply because we wanted to be the best and wanted to win,” Bates said.
When it comes to all three, baseball was their lifestyle, and even that might be an understatement.
Blake first started when he was 5 years old playing T-ball, then moved to little league, and then got more serious about the game of baseball when he joined a travel team at 9 years old. He has been playing travel ball ever since.
When he got to the high school level, Blake was moved up to junior varsity as an eighth grader and then moved up again and played varsity all four years of high school. Blake also earned himself a spot on the second-team Region 3D as a pitcher and first-team Blue Ridge District as a second baseman after his junior year.
The summer before his senior year, he was offered to play baseball at Concord University, and Blake decided that the Division II school was where he wanted to play his next four years of baseball. He signed his National Letter of Intent to Concord this past November.
There’s more to this story in the current issue of the Smith Mountain Eagle newspaper. Pick up a copy or subscribe at www.smithmountaineagle.com/subscriber_services to view the full article in the print and/or e-edition version.