Baseball may have been what brought Carlisle’s Addison Clark and Garrett Kangas, along with Chatham’s Christian Lancaster and Tunstall’s Grant Elliott to Lynchburg last week, but it was another sport that kept them entertained between games.
“We played a lot of Madden and there might’ve been some picking going on,” Lancaster said, laughing.
Clark laughed and added, “If there’s been any picking going on, it’s because of [Kangas] over there.”
Kangas took a moment to defend himself saying, “I’ve always kind of felt it was my job to make everybody laugh and keep everybody loose. That’s what my biggest place is on a team. I just try to make sure everybody has fun and it might lead to a little picking, but it’s all in good fun.”
“He cuts it off when he’s on the mound, though,” Clark interjected.
Kangas concurred: “I cut it off on the field and in school though. I just like having fun. Having fun is the name of the game when you’re playing baseball. If you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t be out there. If you’re not having fun on the field or in the classroom, you really need to lighten up a bit. It shouldn’t be all about how you’re doing, your mechanics, the fundamentals. Sometimes you just got to have fun.”
Elliott added, “Yep, you got to keep finding ways to have fun. High school and travel baseball can be a real grind so you have to find ways to keep enjoying it.”
While the four enjoyed each other’s company, playing Madden, picking on each other, they were all business when the four took the field at Liberty University as members of Virginia’s West squad during the 2019 Virginia Commonwealth Games baseball tournament last weekend.
The side earned a Bronze-medal finish after posting a 2-2 record over the three-day tournament.
The team started its stay with a 6-4 loss to Central in the opener, before bouncing back and winning its second game against the East, 4-3. Elliott singled, doubled and drove in a run and Lancaster got the start, throwing three solid innings.
Luck didn’t favor the squad in the nightcap though as it dropped a tough 7-6 contest to the North. Clark doubled and drove in a run while Elliott and Lancaster each added a hit. Kangas kept the West in the game, throwing two solid innings of relief.
The side concluded its four-game stay in the tournament on Sunday with a 6-5 win over the East in the third-place game.
Elliott finished the tournament with a .364 average and drove in five runs, while Clark hit .333 and drove in a run. Lancaster posted a .333 average and drove in three RBIs.
On the bump, Kangas closed out a pair of games for the West while Lancaster started the second game.
Elliott and Lancaster are used to staring out at each other from opposing dugouts.
Against Central, the two not only shared a dugout, but teamed up for a three-run sixth inning that helped their side nearly erase a five-run deficit late in the game.
Elliott’s run-scoring single to left field and Lancaster’s two-run triple to the warning track in left accounted for all three runs of the sixth-inning rally.
Lancaster wasn’t the only rival Elliott took the field with over the weekend.
Franklin County’s Michael Williams and Halifax’s Stanley Noblin, Jr. and Jason Lloyd each joined Elliott on the West squad.
Considering FC and Halifax handed Tunstall four of its five losses this season, and the Trojans knocked off the Comets in the 2019 Piedmont District Tournament championship game, it would be safe to assume there might be some bad blood between the four. Let Elliott tell it though, and that wasn’t the case.
“It’s great,” Elliott said. “They’re great ballplayers and it makes you better to come onto a team and play with those guys instead of against them. You get to keep learning and that’s exactly how I’ve viewed this whole experience.”
Under the direction of former Tunstall standout and MLB fourth-round draft pick Will Inman, Carlisle’s baseball team has made three consecutive appearances in the Virginia Independent Schools Athletics Association (VISAA) Division III state tournament semifinals.
However, few outside of the Dan River region, have heard of Carlisle. Clark and Kangas are hoping their participation in this year’s Commonwealth Games changes that.
“It’s great because a lot of the kids who follow high school baseball in the area can take a look at us and see we’re from Carlisle and have a pretty good team,” Clark said. “It puts Carlisle’s name out there along with ours.”
Kangas added, “There are a lot of kids out there who don’t know what or who Carlisle is because it’s such a small school. We’ve only got about 100 or so students in the high school, but somehow we manage to get good players and put together a good team each season.”
Players wore batting helmets emblazoned in their school colors and insignia’s over the weekend. A reminder that each player wasn’t representing only themselves or their families, but their schools and communities as well.
“It’s about representing the Western part of the state. It’s about getting our high schools out there and representing them in a good way,” Elliott said.
For Lancaster, it’s a chance to break the negative news cycle that sometimes plagues the area.
“It keeps bringing good news to the city,” Lancaster said. “Danville and the area have really caught some bad breaks and it isn’t always the best place at times, but our participation brightens it up a bit. It gives Danville a bit of good news compared to the normal stuff you hear.”