May 16 - Eddie Gimbel and Ed Wagner had RBI singles in a five-run first inning and Blake Fisher struck out eight and allowed one unearned run in six innings to make the early lead hold up as Highland School beat visiting North Cross, 8-1, in the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division II quarterfinals on Tuesday.
The Hawks’ win came on a day that saw each of the four Northern Virginia teams lose on the first day of the Division I state tournament, and will mark their third consecutive appearance in the semifinals. Highland (19-4), which has won five straight and 13 of its past 14, will play No. 2 seed Greenbrier Christian (24-6) tomorrow at 2 p.m. at Shepherd Stadium in Colonial Heights.
“[I’m] proud of our guys for reaching this point for the third straight year, but we’re hungry for more,” said Hawks coach Micah Higgins, whose program is making its fourth straight state tournament appearance and seeking its first berth in the state final. “We know how talented GCA is, but I like our fight and we will give them our best shot.”
Gimbel and Wagner had two hits apiece in Tuesday’s win, and Fisher limited North Cross to one hit and improved to 6-2 while lowering his ERA to 1.33 before Adam Dressler came on to pitch the final inning. Fisher (.422, 3 HR, 20 RBI, 10 steals) and Joe DeBardi (.493, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 14 steals) lead a Hawks lineup into the showdown with the Gators, who have won 10 of their past 11. DeBardi was named the Delaney Athletic Conference’s Player of the Year and will play next year at Mount St. Mary’s.
Greenbrier Christian, which has won 13 private school state championships, defeated Atlantic Shores Christian, 2-0, in Tuesday’s quarterfinals to advance. The Gators are led by two Division I-bound infielders in senior third baseman J.T. Inskeep (Virginia Military Institute) and junior shortstop Nic Britt (William & Mary).
The winner advances to Saturday’s championship game at 2 p.m. at Shepherd Stadium, where they will play the winner of No. 4 seed Steward School (11-11) and No. 1 seed Miller School (21-7), the two-time defending champion.
Each of the four area teams that qualified for the nine-team Division I tournament lost on Tuesday. Paul VI Catholic, making its 16th straight state tournament appearance, dropped a 4-0 decision to Norfolk Christian in the play-in game. Later in the day, Bishop O’Connell lost to Cape Henry, 1-0, Episcopal fell to Collegiate, 4-2, and Flint Hill lost to defending state champion St. Christopher’s, 5-2.
A sixth area team, Fredericksburg Christian, dropped a 7-4 contest to Isle of Wight in the Division II play-in game.
Photos of Blake Fisher, left, and Joe DeBardi, right, courtesy of Highland School Baseball