May 14 - Six area schools will take the field today as the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association state tournaments begin play.
The Division I field includes four teams from Northern Virginia, with No. 9 seed Paul VI Catholic (12-14) playing No. 8 seed Norfolk Christian today at 1:30 p.m. in the play-in game, and the winner then playing top seed Benedictine (24-2) in the quarterfinals at 4:30 p.m. Both games are at Benedictine in Richmond.
The Panthers, making their 16th consecutive state tournament appearance, handed the nationally-ranked Cadets one of their two losses two weeks ago in Fairfax. That win played a major factor in them earning the final spot in the tournament despite having a losing record.
In today’s other Division I quarterfinals, No. 4 seed Bishop O’Connell (16-10) hosts No. 5 seed Cape Henry (15-6) while No. 6 seed Episcopal (16-8) travels to No. 3 seed Collegiate (15-6) and No. 7 seed Flint Hill (16-10) plays at No. 2 seed St. Christopher’s (16-6), the defending state champion. Each of the quarterfinal games are at 4:30 p.m.
O’Connell is coming off a grueling three-game Washington Catholic Athletic Conference semifinal series with St. John’s, eliminated in a 3-2 extra-inning loss on Thursday. The Knights are seeking their first state championship since 1998.
“I am extremely proud of how our guys battled and competed the whole series, and it’s too bad we came up a little bit short in the end,” O’Connell coach Kyle Padgett said last week. “It was high-level baseball throughout with tremendous pitching and defense by both teams. I hope we can use it to springboard us into the VISAA tournament.”
In the Division II bracket, No. 9 seed Fredericksburg Christian (11-10) will play No. 8 seed Isle of Wight Academy (14-7) in the play-in game at 1:30 p.m., with the winner of that game facing top seed Miller School (20-7), the two-time defending champion, at 4:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals. Both of those games are at Miller School in Albemarle.
No. 3 seed Highland School (18-4) hosts No. 6 seed North Cross School (14-8) at 5 p.m. as the Hawks make their fourth straight tournament appearance. No. 5 seed Nansemond-Suffolk Academy (10-7-1) travels to No. 4 Steward School (10-11) and No. 7 Atlantic Shores Christian (18-9-1) plays at No. 2 seed Greenbrier Christian Academy (23-6) in the other quarterfinals.
The semifinals and championship games are held on Friday and Saturday, respectively, at Shepherd Stadium in Colonial Heights. No area team has won the state title since 2012, when Paul VI won its fourth Division I title in nine years.
Photo of O’Connell’s Riley O’Donovan by Marjorie Eisert