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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Moving On: West End Post 361 Loses Lead, Gets It Back For Marathon Win

West End Post 361 had to like their chances entering the eighth inning Wednesday night with a 9-4 lead on the host Leesburg Post 34 at the American Legion State Tournament in Purcellville.

But Post 34 began crawling back into the game. Play after play, run after run would score like a steady drip until the game was tied 9-9 by the time the inning ended.

It was time for another bit of magic for a team known for their last-inning comebacks.

Going toe to toe with the home team into the 13th, Drew Barker was tonight's hero, singling home Beano Shealy with the game-winning run, then fending off Post 34 in the bottom of the frame for a 10-9 victory.

Post 361 is now 16-6 overall, but more importantly, 2-0 in the double-elimination tournament. They next face the other unbeaten team left in the field, Albemarle Post 74, Thursday at 4pm. The winner of that game earns a berth in the championship final beginning Saturday afternoon.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

American Legion State Tournament: Post 361 Wins Opener...

They're back to their original script.

After holding a 5-0 lead, West End Post 361 saw Big Island Post 217 claw back into Tuesday's first round game in the American Legion State Tournament, scoring three in the top of the eighth to take a 6-5 lead.

But this was a small hill to climb compared to other mountains the team has faced in July, this month of comebacks for the dubbed "361 Mafia". Craig McLane hit a game-tying double, then scored on the eventual game-winning single by Drew Barker, leaving the rest to starter Nic Phelps, who struck out eight and closed the door in the ninth to secure the 7-6 first round victory.

West End Post 361 improves on the season to 15-6, and more importantly, advance in the winners bracket of the tournament, getting a full day of rest for its determined, but undermanned, pitching staff. Not having to play again early Wednesday in the elimination bracket is a huge bonus for the team's championship chances.

Tomorrow night at 7:30, 361 will face the winner of the final game of day one of the tourney between Roanoke Post 3 and Leesburg Post 34.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Champions: West End Post 361 Explodes For Championship Win...

It's possible that West End Post 361 came into their two-game American Legion District 11 Tournament Finals with top-seeded Mechanicsville Post 175 not only knowing they had to win twice to capture the tournament title, but desiring to stay away from yet another situation where they would have to live up to their late-season mantra: "The Comeback Kids".

They'd much rather be called the "361 mafia", thank you. That mafia used every aspect of the sport, from pitching and defense to slow rollers and long bombs to jump on Mechanicsville Post 175 for nine runs in the first two innings en route to a 13-5 win to capture the District 11 crown.

"It's different to be on this side of the ball, but it's nice," said catcher Will Black. "When you have the lead, you can attack their hitters a little better."

That's just what Patrick Hulihan did. The lefty worked seven innings, getting out of several tricky situations, only serving up one mistake that turned into a grand slam home run for Post 175, which cut the by-then 12-0 lead in the fifth to 12-4. Otherwise, Hulihan did what Patrick Hall did Tuesday and Nic Phelps accomplished Monday, with strong outings on the hill that went deep into the game so 361 did not have to worry about their lack of pitching depth.

"Unbelievable work; they both located their three pitches: the fast, the curve, and the change, both kept them off-balance," Black explained. "They're a real aggressive team, so you need good off-speed pitches for first strikes to get ahead. Unbelievable job."

Black described the starting rotation of Hulihan, Hall, Phelps, and Tyler Magee as having the mentality to know each time they are given the ball, they need to produce seven plus innings of solid work. In the past 48 plus hours, Phelps and Hall pitched eight apiece, tonight Hulihan went seven.

Hall hit his second home run in as many games, a grand slam down the right field line, the biggest shot in a seven-run second inning that took a 2-0 game and turned it into a developing 9-0 rout. But 175 wasn't nearly done.

After the Trevor Denton grand slam in the fifth, 175 loaded the bases twice more. Josh Lam, who struck out with the bases jammed before the Denton home run, had three opportunities at the plate with three runners aboard. He produced two strikeouts and a sacrifice fly for Mechanicsville's final run. After a final 361 run was scored in the ninth, 175 went quietly in the final three outs. Mechanicsville left 13 runners on base.

West End improves to 14-6 and advances to the State American Legion Tournament that begins Monday in Purcellville, Virginia. Brackets and directions will be posted here on our website as soon as they are available to us.






Tuesday, July 22, 2014

BASEBALL: West End Post 361 Forces Winner Take All Championship Game

The pitching of Patrick Hall, solid defense, and the gift of the sixth inning together send West End Post 361 to the American Legion District 11 Championship Game after holding on for a 9-6 win tonight over Mechanicsville Post 175 at L.C. Bird High School.

Hall pitched 8 innings, striking out two while keeping Mechanicsville off balance, getting only four hits in the first eight frames. Hall tired in the ninth, walking the first two batters before allowing a double and single before being replaced by Kyle Saltzberg. He ended with a line of five runs on six hits with three walks to go with the two strikeouts. Take away the work in the final inning, and the line is more indicative of his overall work.

Hall also homered in the fifth inning for the game's first run. Post 175 starter Patrick Holler had matched Hall's performance to that point. Holler fell apart in the sixth. After a Craig McLane flyout, Holler walked both Drew Barker and Will Black. Clean-up hitter Kyle Battle then greeted reliever Thomas Renfro with a double to left-center to score both runners.

Drew Scott followed with a single, then Battle scored on a fielders choice by Eric Crain. Crain advanced to second on a wild pitch to Hall, then Hall singled to left scoring Crain. Hall advanced to second on the play, then scored when shortstop Josh Shepherd threw wildly to first on a grounder by Nick Koutsoukas, scoring Hall with the inning's final run.

Post 361 (13-6) added two in the eighth and one in the ninth, and needed them, as Post 175 rallied for five runs in the ninth before finally running out of steam.

The two teams have split their four meetings this season: 1-1 in regular season play, 1-1 in this tournament. Tomorrow's 7pm game sends one to a District title and the State Tournament in Purcellville beginning Monday, and one to the end of the road.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

FOLLOW-UP: VHSL Alignment Committee Proposal, Interview With Committee Member...

On June 30th, HCS Media Network reported here on the June 24th meeting of the Virginia High School League (VHSL) Alignment Committee, which met in Charlottesville to discuss changes to the new six-classification system due to normal student population changes at schools throughout Virginia.

The meeting also served as an opportunity for all twelve regions to report to the committee on concerns voiced by individual schools, and in the case of one region, a collective of schools, about the new system implemented in the 2013-14 school year.

Our original report focused on several issues, including the proposed changes that came out of the meeting, how they would affect several schools in our coverage area, and why the existence of "districts" continues with the proposal of districts for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years with one area change.

HCS Media spoke with Atlee Activities Director Dave Kannewurf this week via email. Mr. Kannewurf serves on the VHSL Alignment Committee, and spoke candidly about the meeting, its purpose, rationale behind portions of the proposal, and confirming the continued existence of districts and why that is the case.

Of note, Mr. Kannewurf did not attend the June 24th meeting (he represents the 5A South Region) due to being on vacation, but Atlee principal Jennifer Cohodas was there on his behalf. Kannewurf was in constant communication with Cohodas during the actual meeting.

A QUESTION OF BALANCE: While exploring the changes in school enrollments, the committee was also charged, in trying to settle the new classification system into existence in preparation for its second two-year cycle, to reach a goal given to them by the VHSL.

"The Alignment Committee was given the tasks of balancing out the Regions and Conferences," Kannewurf said. "The parameters given were that Conferences should have between five and eight members, and Regions should have 24 to 28 members."

In the Richmond area alone, Conference 11 had eight members, Conference 12 had six, while Conference 16 had only four. Thus, where Patrick Henry only had to win one game in their conference tournaments to clinch a 5A North Region playoff berth, Atlee and Lee-Davis, in Conference 11, had to win two games.

"The difference between 5A North and 5A South was such that a few schools from 5A South needed to move to 5A North," Kannewurf noted. The proposal would place 28 schools in 5A South, 24 in 5A North.

The biggest change involves area schools, as Mills Godwin, Deep Run and Atlee would move from 5A South, Conference 11 to 5A North, Conference 16.

"Mills Godwin, Deep Run, and Atlee were the most western and northern schools which made sense when looking at locations," Kannewurf explained. "They are also the closest schools to the current members of Conference 16, which consists of Albemarle, Orange, and Patrick Henry."

Halifax County, also a current member of Conference 16, has been moved in the proposal to 5A South, Conference 12 to be the only non-Richmond/Petersburg area member of a seven-team conference that would host Highland Springs, moving from Conference 11, and Varina, moving down from 6A South to 5A South. One could reason this move was to ensure the East End rivals were together, but a current Conference 11, with six proposed members, five from Henrico, have room to house up to two more teams and stay within the Committee's charger parameters. It would, however, leave Conference 12 with just five teams.

In addition, Kannewurf also noted Conference 11 had to shed members, because, after a request by Patrick Henry to move to Conference 11 to join its county brethren created a scenario where the conference would have nine members, outside of the given parameters.

PLAYOFFS ONLY: On paper, this would give the impression that, for example, West End rivals Douglas Freeman and Mills Godwin would be separated, and this is true when it comes to the playoffs. Currently, as another example, Patrick Henry cannot face either Atlee or Lee-Davis in the postseason until the State Semifinals due to the Patriots being in 5A North, the Raiders and Confederates in 5A South.

But now is a good time to discuss a major point of the meeting, and the foreseeable future when it comes to how rivals, not just in Henrico, but across the state, are scheduled.

"It is important to remember that this is for playoffs only," Kannewurf stated. "With district scheduling, Atlee will continue to play Lee-Davis twice a year in most sporting events. The effect of this change will not change anything as far as competition goes between them. A perfect example of how competition will look is to look at the competition between Atlee and Hanover both prior to the new system and after. As you could see from last year, Atlee and Hanover continued to play each other twice in most or all sports."

With this formula, expect the Eagles and Rebels to continue to play consistently, at least in the regular season.

THE DISTRICTS LIVE ON: The reason why a Godwin/Freeman rivalry can continue is the VHSL continues to use the old "District System" from the former "Three-Group" classification system used from 1970-2013 to determine regular season schedules. Many people believed that the VHSL approved continued use of old district schedules in the first two-year cycle of the new classification system to help bridge schools from the "old" to the "new". That was never the plan.

"Currently, there is no plan to move away from district scheduling," Kannewurf said. "Each district is reponsible for making that decision. Any change would have to be voted on by the principals of that district. When the new alignment was designed by the VHSL (in 2012), it was done for postseason purposes only and with the belief that regular season competition would still be district driven. What this system has done is that it has opened up the door to play your non-district games against conference schools."

The one proposal coming from the make-up of districts for 2015-16 and 2016-17 would swap Patrick Henry and Glen Allen, the Patriots going to the Capital District, where they haven't resided since the 1970's, to join their county rivals, and the Jaguars moving to the Colonial District, where they would be in the same district as county geographic neighbors Hermitage, J.R. Tucker, and Deep Run among others.

NOT FOR ANOTHER YEAR: It is important be to reminded here that, once the proposed changes are approved, they will not take effect until the 2015-16 school year. The new year almost upon us will operate just like last year did. Schools are currently filing appeals to the proposal with the VHSL Alignment Committee. They will be heard at a meeting on August 11th. Once approved in either its current or an amended form, the Alignment Committee will present the proposal to the VHSL Executive Committee for possible approval on September 17th.

THE CHANGES: Here are the new proposed Conferences by Region affecting all Metro Richmond area schools. Teams that have moved will be in bold with former home in parentheses. Any moves from one classification to another (example: 3A to 4A) is due to rise in student population. There are a few that move down, not always due to falling student population, but more because enough schools with rising populations moving up have pushed some schools down one classification.

(HIGHLIGHTS: Six of nine Henrico County schools are moving in some way. All county schools would be in the 5A Classification. Glen Allen and J.R. Tucker move up from 4A to 5A, join Conference 11 with Freeman, Hermitage, Henrico. Highland Springs moves to Conference 12, joining Varina, moving down from 6A. Deep Run and Mills Godwin move from 5A South to 5A North, Conference 11 to Conference 16.)

6A SOUTH:

Conference 3: (was 6 teams, now 7 teams)
Clover Hill (was 5A South, Conference 12)
Cosby
Thomas Dale
Franklin County
Patrick Henry-Roanoke
James River
Manchester (was 5A South, Conference 12)

5A SOUTH:

Conference 11: (was 8 teams, would be 6 teams)
Douglas Freeman
Glen Allen (was 4A South, Conference 20)
Henrico
Hermitage
Lee-Davis
J.R. Tucker (was 4A South, Conference 20)

Conference 12: (was 6 teams, would be 7 teams)
L.C. Bird
Halifax (was 5A North, Conference 16)
Highland Springs (was 5A South, Conference 11)
Matoaca
Meadowbrook
Prince George
Varina (was 6A South, Conference 3)

5A NORTH:

Conference 16: (was 4 teams, would be 6 teams)
Albemarle
Atlee (was 5A South, Conference 11)
Deep Run (was 5A South, Conference 11)
Mills Godwin (was 5A South, Conference 11)
Patrick Henry (Ashland)
Orange County

4A SOUTH:

Conference 19: (completely new members, six total)
Caroline (was Conference 20)
Chancellor
Charlottesville
Courtland
King George
Louisa

Conference 20: (was 7 teams, would be 6 teams)
Dinwiddie
Hanover
Huguenot (was 3A East, Conference 26)
Midlothian
Monacan
Powhatan (moving from Conference 19)

3A EAST:

(Conference 25, home to Colonial Heights and New Kent, would shrink from eight to five members, with departure of Lafayette, Poquoson, and York)

Conference 26: (remains 7 teams)
Armstrong
Hopewell
Thomas Jefferson
James Monroe (moving from Conference 27)
Spotsylvania (moving from Conference 27)
Petersburg
George Wythe

2A EAST:

Conference 33: John Marshall moves down one classification, joins Maggie Walker Governor's School, King William, Washington & Lee, Arcadia, Bruton & Nandua. Windsor leaves, moving to 1A East.

Conference 34, containing Goochland, Amelia County, remains the same.

1A EAST:

Conference 42, containing Chesterfield Community, West Point, and Charles City remains the same.


Monday, July 14, 2014

American Legion Baseball District 11 Tournament Schedule

The battle for the District 11 Title and a berth in the Virginia State American Legion Tournament begins on Thursday night in a double-elimination format.

Thursday July 17th:

GAME 1: #8 Ashland Post 206 at #1 Mechanicsville Post 175, 7pm, Hanover High School
GAME 2: #7 Colonial Heights Post 284B at #2 Colonial Heights Post 284P, 7pm, Shepherd Stadium
GAME 3: #6 South Richmond Post 137 at #3 West End Post 361, 7pm, Hermitage High School
GAME 4: #5 Powhatan Post 201 at #4 Lakeside Post 125, 7pm, Douglas Freeman High School

Friday July 18th (games at higher seed at 7pm):

GAME 5: Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2
GAME 6: Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4
GAME 7: Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2
GAME 8: Loser of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4

Saturday July 19th (games at higher seed at 7pm):

GAME 9: Winner of Game 5 vs. Winner of Game 6
GAME 10: Loser of Game 6 vs. Winner of Game 7
GAME 11: Loser of Game 5 vs. Winner of Game 8

Sunday July 20th (3pm at L.C. Bird High School):

GAME 12: Winner of Game 10 vs. Winner of Game 11

Monday July 21st (7pm at L.C. Bird High School):

GAME 13: Winner of Game 12 vs. Loser of Game 9

Tuesday July 22nd (7pm at L.C. Bird High School: Championship Round)

GAME 14: Winner of Game 13 vs. Winner of Game 9

Wednesday July 23rd (7pm at L.C. Bird High School: Championship Round Final If Necessary)

GAME 15: Only if Winner of Game 9 loses Game 14 on Tuesday 7/22

NOTE: The District 11 Tournament Champion begins play in the State Tournament on Monday, July 28th in Purcellville, Virginia.



Monday, June 30, 2014

Special Report: More Changes To VHSL Reclassification (With Commentary)

Just when we had finished the first high school sports season in the "new era" of Virginia High School League (VHSL) Reclassification, the decks are about to be shuffled again.

It's the apparent result of both previously scheduled adjustments and concerns arising from a host of schools from across the Commonwealth.

Since the new alignment debuted last August, it was known that, every two years, adjustments to Conference and Regions would have to be made as school population levels fluctuated, new schools opened, and, in one case, two schools merging. The entire premise of the new 6A classification system was built on competition between schools with similar enrollment figures, with the hopes of more fair and equitable opportunities for all teams to compete for state championships, which in most sports were expanded from three to six.

In conjunction with the scheduled June 25 meeting amongst VHSL and individual school officials concerning the next alignment cycle, regions were able to express concerns about not just conference alignments, but other issues as well. One voiced multiple times was the way classifications, and the number of schools in each of the six, were divided. Another, not unexpected, was the new costs some schools are incurring with the new system.

When the 5A North representative, Stan Clements of Massaponax High School spoke, he noted that Patrick Henry had requested to be moved so that "all county schools would be in the same conference." After being in Conference 11 in a nine-team format that included Atlee and Lee-Davis, in the initial 2012 conference alignment, Patrick Henry then requested a move out of that conference, and the 5A South Region, to Conference 16 in 5A North, which, at the time, was just a three-team entity. Thus, this request is a "back to the future" move. In the end, it was only partially proposed (more below).

The concerns are not just in our area. C.D. Hylton High School wanted Conferences 4 and 8, which are in completely different regions of the 6A Classification, to merge for "financial and travel reasons for all Prince William County Schools".

At the April 8th meeting of this group, a "10 percent parameter" was proposed, using this "cushion" to make adjustments to the next cycle of conference and region assignments once the March 31, 2014 school enrollment figures were released. Most regions opposed the idea, and it was voted down in June by an 11-2 vote (Atlee principal Jennifer Cohodas, representing the 5A South Region, voted no, having supported it.)

Then, in another twist, the old met the new, as a motion was made and approved unaminously, to "move" Patrick Henry from the Colonial to the Capital District, in exchange for Glen Allen High School. Immediately, the question begs itself, why worry about District alignments that were part of the old system?  It gives indication that the VHSL will allow schools to continue allowing "regular season district play" prior to teams moving into Conference and Region tournaments through 2016-17. Some had believed district schedules continued in play just during the current two-year cycle (2013-14 and 2014-15) to allow schools more time to prepare for the complete changeover to the Conference format, meaning new opponents, rivalries, and in some cases, new travel costs.

So, when the proposed 2015-16 and 2016-17 Conference and Region alignments were released, so were new "proposed" District alignments.

If districts are "gone", why propose changes for another cycle? In the November 13, 2012 committee meeting, VHSL Executive Director Ken Tilley referred to districts such as the Capital and Colonial as "going out of existence".

So, from our cursory look at the minutes from the June 25th meeting, it looks like regular seasons for the foreseeable future will consist of "district" schedules from the past for many schools, changes for some, and more postseason Conference Tournament Games between teams who never see each other in regular season play. There are also some proposals that will end postseason matchups that survived the initial change to the new system.

To keep rivalries and cut down costs? It's certainly possible. It's also possible there's just not completely cemented agreement on the new system.

We certainly invite comment from anyone on the VHSL Alignment Committee. Appeals by schools to the proposed new alignment plan must be in the League office by July 24th. The Committee meets again August 11th and will submit a final alignment plan for approval on September 17th.

Here's the link to the proposed 2015-16, 2016-17 Region and Conference Alignments: CLICK HERE

Here are the proposed NEW Conferences which would be voted upon in September, taking effect in the Fall of 2015 (teams moved in bold with former Conference/Region (if applicable) in parenthesis):

6A SOUTH:

Conference 3:
Clover Hill (12, 5A South)
Cosby
Thomas Dale
Franklin County
Patrick Henry-Roanoke
James River (Midlothian)
Manchester (12, 5A South)

5A SOUTH:

Conference 11:
Douglas Freeman
Glen Allen (20, 4A South)
Henrico
Hermitage
Lee-Davis
J.R. Tucker (20, 4A South)

Conference 12:
L.C. Bird
Halifax (3, 6A South)
Highland Springs (11)
Matoaca
Meadowbrook
Prince George
Varina (3, 6A South)

5A NORTH:

Conference 16:
Albemarle
Atlee (11, 5A South)
Deep Run (11, 5A South)
Mills Godwin (11, 5A South)
Patrick Henry
Orange

4A SOUTH:

Conference 20:
Dinwiddie
Hanover
Huguenot (26, 3A East)
Midlothian
Monacan
Powhatan (19)

NOTES:

--Conference 3 would become a seven-team conference, up from six, with five of the schools from Chesterfield County, Clover Hill and Manchester moving up in classification.
--Conference 11 would shrink by two to a six-team conference, with Glen Allen and J.R. Tucker joining close county neighbors Hermitage and Douglas Freeman. Lee-Davis would be the only non-Henrico school, now the "loner" in Hanover County.
--Conference 12 moves to seven teams, adding Halifax, and both Highland Springs and Varina, looking to keep those two Eastern Henrico rivals together now that they are in the same classification (Varina moving down from 6A)
--Conference 16 adds two teams, and three new members as Halifax departs. Atlee joins Patrick Henry, with far West End schools Deep Run and Mills Godwin joining them, ending postseason Conference games between, for example, the 2014 Conference 11 Baseball Championship between archrivals Douglas Freeman and Mills Godwin.
--Conference 20 is lessened by one to six teams, says goodbye to Glen Allen and J.R. Tucker (as well as Caroline) and adds Huguenot (moving up a classification) and Powhatan from a now-imploded Conference 19.

REMINDER: This is a proposal. Nothing is set in stone for the next cycle until, at the earliest, September 17th.