By Sports editor Brian Hoffman
Undefeated Abingdon High scored in the bottom of the seventh for a walk-off win over William Byrd in the Region 3D baseball championship game last Friday. The 2-1 loss ended Byrd’s season and a four year quest for the state championship.
“I know these kids wanted to win the state championship, and there was a lot of emotion after the game,” said Byrd coach Neil Zimmerman. “But when they look back on the memories they’ll have, the friends they made and the big wins we’ve had, they’ll feel a lot better.”
Byrd defeated Christiansburg in the region semifinal in Vinton last Wednesday, June 16, to earn a spot in the region championship game. Tyler Dean hit a three run laser of a home run off the leftfield light tower pole to supply the juice and Isaac Fix struck out 15 batters in a 4-2 win over the Blue Demons. Byrd had a season-high 10 hits in that game, including three by Dean and two each by Dylan Hatfield and Luke Taylor.
That sent the Terriers to Abingdon on Friday for the highly anticipated showdown between the undefeated Falcons and Byrd, and the game was as good as advertised. Abingdon scored first in the second inning on a Jake O’Quinn home run but Byrd tied the score in the top of the fifth when Fix led off with a single, moved to second on an error and eventually scored on a single by Joey Johnson.
Meanwhile, Dean was nearly unhittable on the mound for Byrd. He pitched six complete innings and allowed just one hit, the second inning home run. He walked a season-high seven but stranded all seven while striking out eight.
Tyler was one pitch away from the VHSL limit of 110 after six innings and was relieved by Taylor in the bottom of the seventh. After a fly out to start the inning Taylor walked two before Abingdon’s Chase Hungate singled in the winning run.
Byrd finished with five hits, two by Johnson and one each by Taylor, Hatfield and Fix. Taylor took the loss on the mound while Dean finished the season with a school record 0.70 earned run average.
“It was a well-played game on both sides in an electric atmosphere,” said Zimmerman. “We failed to get a couple bunts down, but so did they. Our kids left it on the field, like they always do.”
For 11 Byrd seniors it was their final game in Terrier maroon and orange. In fact, the game was dominated by seniors on both sides.
“There were 19 seniors in the game,” said Zimmerman. “I started 10 seniors and they had nine, and our other senior, Hunter Harris, ran for Hatfield.”
Abingdon went on to beat Liberty Christian on Tuesday, 4-3, and will play either Independence or Lafayette on Saturday, in Abingdon, for the state championship. The Falcons will take a 17-0 record into that game, and none of the 17 were bigger than last Friday’s victory over Byrd, who ended the season with an 11-4 mark.
“It was a tough loss for sure,” said Zimmerman. “I look back at 2018 when we upset LCA, and we had five freshmen on the field that day. That was when they put themselves on the radar. From that point on their goal was to win a state championship, but it just wasn’t to be.
“The thing is, if all you ever play sports for is to win a state championship you’re missing out on a lot. If that was the case Byrd has failed every time but once in the past 100 years. There’s a lot more to it than that. The younger kids idolize these players and want to be like them. They’re role models in the community and in the school and they’ll take away lessons that will help them succeed in life. It’s a shame we had to lose, but I’m proud of these kids and all they’ve accomplished in the past four years.”