In high school baseball there have been few teams that have won at the same level as Amherst County. In the past two seasons they have won 41 out of their last 43 games (as of May 19th). That one loss came in last year's state semifinals and an Amherst trio is making sure they don't come up short this season.
From DA Christian in centerfield, to Nathan Trevillian on the mound, and to Peyton Maddox behind home plate - you can draw a straight line through the Lancers’ success.
"It's always extremely important to have a catcher that you can rely on to call the game. Peyton calls all the pitches during all the games and does a fantastic job managing the game. It's certainly awesome to have a kid like Nathan. As much attention as he's got, he's really developed into a great pitcher, more so that a great thrower, which you see a lot of high school kids are great throwers. He's certainly learned to pitch and learned the game and then certainly to have an athlete like DA in centerfield to cover everything from just about left field to right field out in the outfield makes it very easy for us as coaches," head coach
Joey Crawford said before a 4-3 win over Brookville.
Maddox, a senior, who during the summer and fall has played for the Virginia Cardinals and the Richmond Braves, is hitting .463 with three home runs and 27 RBIs. He had a walk-on off from Old Dominion but accepted a scholarship to VMI. Keydets coach Marlin Ikenberry said, "Peyton is a very athletic catcher that has a tremendous amount of upside. We believe that with our development plan on the field and in the weight room, Peyton's best days of baseball are ahead of him.”
Maddox said Christian, a senior, brings the energy and enthusiasm. “He just brings us together," Maddox said. Christian has committed and de-committed to a number of schools but said this past week that he will play at Louisburg College, a two-year school north of Raleigh, NC. He plans to increase his GPA and then play at a higher collegiate level.
"This senior class that we have is one of the most talented senior classes that I've seen come through Amherst in a long time. I can't say how hard they've worked in the last couple years to be where they are and that means a lot to me as a coach because to have a group of kids that all they want to do is play baseball, what else can you say?" Crawford asked.
Trevillian, a junior, is 15-0 over the past two seasons and had a 0.70 ERA while averaging nearly 10 strikeouts a game. He throws 92 miles per hour and has verbally committed to Liberty. Even if he garners more attention from higher profiles baseball programs he said he’s sticking to LU. "I'm a man of my word. I'm going to go with Liberty University."
"[Nathan's] worked tremendously over the course of the last couple years to build up his strength and he's got a great pitching regimen that he works on,” Crawford said.
Trevillian elaborated on what he has had to improve while at Amherst. "When I first showed up at high school it wasn't that great because I didn't know the art of pitching. I still don't know the art of pitching. I'm still learning about the game of pitching and my mental [make up] was one thing that I definitely needed to work on and visualizing myself [succeeding] was another big key and hard work and my mechanics have definitely improved."
Crawford, who played on the last Amherst team to win a state title in 2003, added, “The sky is the limit with him. He's got a great frame for a pitcher and he's only a 160 pounds and when he puts on weight and gets stronger, who knows?”
For now they’re focused on a season that outshines its last. "Three years ago when I took over when I got the job we all sat in the locker room and talked before the season started about what we wanted to accomplish as a team, what we wanted to establish as a program. A lot of these seniors were on that varsity team as sophomores and the rest of them were on the JV team that went 16-3. Last year the JV team was 16-1 so it makes a big difference having those guys that know how to win and they want to win. Losing is not an option for these guys. They were absolutely distraught last year when we lost in the state semifinal game and they don't want do that again. I think that really kind of fuels them as they go along," Crawford said. "The majority of our team from last year is back this year. We lost seven seniors but we only lost two starters. A lot of these guys were on that team last year and we're a part of that run and they understand what they want to achieve and also understand, in order to get there, they've got to make sure we take the small steps before you take the big steps.”
That includes top notch defense.
"We've totaled a ton of strikeouts. It makes your defense look good when you strike everybody out. Obviously with Peyton behind the plate, we've only have five attempted stolen bases this year and he's thrown out three of them so it really helps to have those guys manage the game from the mound and behind the plate and you don't have too many guys coming around third trying to score when DA's got the ball in his hand in the outfield either. For him to be able to erase as many base hits as he's had going from gap to gap in the outfield it just makes our defense so much better with those three guys out there," said Crawford.
Amherst hasn’t been dominant by any means. They take every opponent’s best shot and they’ve needed a number of comeback wins over the course of the season to remain unbeaten but the chemistry the team has enabled them to respond when they’re down. "It helps when you can count on your guys, when you get on, they hit you in, and then obviously with Nathan on the mound, any run will help a whole lot because he's doing a tremendous job this year," Maddox said. "I've caught him since I was 11. We used to play travel ball so we pretty much know exactly what we want to throw. He'll be holding a change up in his glove and I'll call a changeup so we've built a really close connection and have confidence with every pitch that he throws."
"The team that we have and the chemistry that we have is unbelievable and with me, DA, and Peyton, we're like brothers," Trevillian explained.
Maddox added, "I wouldn't want anything more than to win the state but we're taking it one game at a time now and hopefully, if it's meant to be, we'll go all the way and hopefully get that ring."
"The hard work that we're putting in is going to pay off, soon. That dream we’ve been dreaming is going to happen,” Trevillian said.