By Sam Armstrong
BUENA VISTA, Va. – The Southern Virginia University baseball team recently completed a historic year, finishing with an overall record of 18-18 and 9-9 mark against CAC competition. Cole Critchfield and Tayler Peterson were both named to All-CAC teams, and many other Knights had excellent seasons as well.
"This was a great year for us," said head coach Logan Mann. "I am so proud of our guys and how hard they worked all season. This young team showed a lot of resilience and heart."
The highlight of the season for the squad was fulfilling a years-long goal in competing in the CAC Tournament, setting the standard for seasons to follow. It marks the first time the team has qualified for postseason play since joining the NCAA.
The Knights entered the tournament as the five-seed and played in a pod with third-seeded Penn St.-Harrisburg and second-seeded Christopher Newport. Southern Virginia dropped both games, including a heart-breaking 12-11 loss to eventual conference runner-up PSU-Harrisburg.
After getting off to a slow start, Southern Virginia quickly turned things around by winning five straight, capped off by a 3-2 victory over Roanoke College, who was ranked 16th in the country at the time. The win turned out to be a phenomenal one, as the Maroons were ranked third later in the season.
The team continued the success as they got into conference play, splitting with Salisbury, who is now ranked No. 10 in the country, and taking No. 11 Frostburg State to extra innings before falling in the 11th inning. The Knights also swept conference foes York (Pa.), Wesley, and Marymount.
Individual honors were earned as well, as Cole Critchfield and Tayler Peterson both received All-CAC teams. Critchfield, a junior, was voted to the All-CAC First Team after posting a .353 batting average, .393 on-base percentage, eight doubles, three home runs, 34 RBIs, and 11 stolen bases. The first baseman also blasted a three-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth against SUNY-Canton in early March.
Peterson, a senior, was voted to the All-CAC Second Team and was also named CAC Pitcher of the Week on April 16. The pitcher finished off his career strong by finishing with a 7-1 record and a 4.18 ERA. Peterson was dominant in conference play, going 6-0 and giving up only 28 hits over 44 innings pitched. His 1.84 ERA against CAC competition was third in the conference.
Freshman Canon Anderson also played well for the Knights, hitting .361 with a team-leading six home runs. Also making big contributions at the plate were Jonathan Soto (.383 AVG), Bridger Taylor (.330 AVG), Caleb Layden (.321 AVG), and Ryan Saunders (.311 AVG). Saunders also swiped 18 bases on the year, which was tied for third in the conference.
On the mound, senior Seth Burris picked up three wins and pitched over 52 innings on the season, while fellow senior Jonathan Hodges also notched three wins in a team-leading 19 appearances. Soto also contributed on the hill, pitching over 43 innings and picking up two wins.
"Our seniors played a huge role in our success," Mann commented. "It is a group that, four years ago, committed to helping us build something special. It was great to see their hard work and sacrifices pay off."
Despite losing such key pieces, the squad will return all but two starters defensively and look to reach the CAC Tournament for a second straight year.
"The future is very bright for Southern Virginia baseball!" Coach Mann concluded. "We have some young men that are hungry and ready to help us get better for years to come."