Sharks second baseman Connor Weeks put together a tremendous performance on Saturday, registering 4 hits including a key single late in the championship game that helped lead to a 12-11 victoy over the NRV Thunder.  Through 6 games, Weeks is second on the Sharks in hitting with a .538 batting average and 6 RBI's. 

SHARKS RALLY TO TOPPLE THUNDER, WIN TOURNEY

Photos By: Helene Shain 

RADFORD, VA - After a successful 2016 fall in which the Virginia Sharks finished with a program best 17 wins and two tournament championships, the expectations were even higher for the start of the 2017 spring season.  

The Sharks returned 8 players that helped lead the team to a 17-4 record, and welcomed 4 new players to their roster. The one glaring issue that was addressed was depth, and early in the spring, the Sharks are once again showing that they have an entire roster of good baseball players.

“We felt good with the players that we had returning from last season’s successful team,” said Head Coach Andy Hayes. “They are bigger and stronger, and they are all familiar with our system now which should make a big difference. With the additions of Braxton Clarke, Tyler Gray, Rhett Moyer, and Connor Weeks, we have become even more versatile and competitive all over the field.”  

Moyer notched his first win of the season on Saturday with an impressive performance on the mound against the NRV Muckdawgs. The right hander struck out 5 hitters as the Sharks cruised to a 16-4 victory. Grant Keffer also pitched well in his first appearance on the mound this spring.

In the second game, the Sharks scored 6 runs in the 3rd inning and eventually pulled away from the Lynchburg Tornadoes 12-4. Trent Judd and Tyler Gray both had RBI hits in the victory.  Camden Hart was dynamic on the hill for the Sharks in his second start, striking out 4 Tornado batters. He scattered just 3 hits in 3 innings of work.

With the first two wins under their belt, the Sharks advanced to play the NRV Thunder in the championship game.  

The Sharks fell behind 6-0 to the Thunder in the 1st inning after committing 3 errors. The Thunder, who are a very solid hitting squad, appeared on their way to a big win. However, the Sharks rallied to score 10 runs by the time the 3rd inning ended.

The Thunder answered back with 2 runs in the top of the 3rd inning, and then scored 3 runs to take the lead in the top of the 4th at 11-10.  With a one run lead, the Thunder turned to their closer, who possesses a plus velocity fastball.

The Sharks put the tying run on base with one out after a strikeout pitch got past the catcher to the backstop. Camden Hart reached safely, and proceeded to steal second base with Zach Fetrow at the plate.  

Fetrow took the count to 3-2 and then belted a fastball down the right field line. The right fielder made an incredible catch, which forced Hart back to 2nd base.  With two outs, Tyler Gray stepped to the plate.  

Gray was hit on the first pitch and that put runners on 1st and 2nd for Connor Weeks.  

Weeks was by far the hottest hitter in the Sharks lineup on the day, already registering two singles and a double in earlier games. After jumping ahead 3-0 in the count, Weeks eventually was facing a 3-2 count from the hard throwing right hander.

After fouling one off, Weeks connected and drove a fastball to right field for a base hit. With the right fielder playing shallow, Coach Hayes held Hart at 3rd base after seeing the throw. It appeared on target, but the ball tipped off the catcher’s glove which would have allowed Hart to score easily.  

“If I could have that call back, I would have sent Camden home,” said Hayes. “It looked like he was going to be out based on where the right fielder was playing and the initial path of the throw.  It was a tough call to make, but thankfully it worked out.”
 
Sharks starter Camden Hart gets ready to deliver his fastball in Saturday's Nations Baseball Tournament in Radford, Va. Hart pitched brilliantly for the second consecutive game, scattering 3 hits in 3 innings of work while striking out 4.  
In his first action of the year from the mound, newcomer Rhett Moyer impressed with 5 strikeouts in the 16-4 win over the Muckdawgs. Moyer's versatility as a pitcher, catcher, and outfielder has been on display early on this season. 
“I was just trying to get the ball in play to bring in Camden” said Weeks. “I just wanted to help the team win.”

With leadoff hitter Braxton Clarke at the dish, Hart scored on another passed ball, and the Sharks tied the game at 11-11.  

Gray advanced to 3rd with the go-ahead run.  On the next pitch, Clarke swung at a high fastball for strike 3.  Once again, the catcher couldn’t handle the pitch, and it went all the way to the backstop fence.  Clarke turned on the jets and beat the throw to first, while Gray touched home for the winning run.  

“We had to fight hard and believe that we could win in the last inning,” said Clarke. “It feels really good. This is the first time winning a tournament as a Shark for a few of us.”

The Sharks stormed the field and celebrated their come from behind victory and first tournament championship of the spring.

“It was a hard fought victory,” said Fetrow. “We had a lot of energy, and we never game up. I think that energy helped Jack pitch and the rest of the team hit.”

Jack Hayes, who entered into the game in the 1st inning, scattered 8 hits in 4 innings of work while striking out 2 Thunder hitters.  It was his first significant work on the mound this spring.

“We just played good defense and I just tried to throw strikes,” said Jack Hayes. “I knew that if they did hit it, we have a good defense back there.”

The victory sends the Sharks to a 5-1 record and gives the team a ton of confidence heading into their week 3 tournament in Christiansburg.

“We showed a ton of heart,” said Coach Hayes. “That was a good team we beat, and I’m really proud of how our guys battled back after falling behind so far early. I’ve been convinced that this group has something special in them, and they gave us all a glimpse of that today.”

“We overcame it all to come out with the win,” said Jack Hayes. “We can’t let up, we just have to keep playing with heart.”