LYNCHBURG -- While most Hanover High School seniors were graduating at the Siegel Center on Saturday afternoon, 10 seniors on the Hawks baseball team earned the right to graduate somewhere else.
They walked down the third-base line and picked up their diplomas at home plate on Liberty University’s diamond.
Hanover won its second consecutive state championship by thumping Millbrook 7-1 in Saturday’s Group 4A title game at Liberty.
“It was quite a run,” Hanover coach Charlie Dragum said. “Back-to-back years. It’s been awesome.”
Hanover starter Derek Casey finished his high school pitching career with a complete-game victory and a 27-0 record. Casey said he wasn’t feeling much pressure going into the final.
“It’s just another baseball game,” Casey said. “Honestly, the more pressure I felt was because it was my last baseball game at Hanover. I enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun, nerve-wracking, but we got the win.”
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Casey didn’t overpower the Millbrook hitters. He gave up four hits and one run — unearned — and struck out four. He surrendered back-to-back walks in the third inning, which prompted a meeting on the mound to settle him down.
“The next pitch was a strike and we went right back at it,” Casey said.
Millbrook coach Brian Burke said Casey made the Pioneers work hard for whatever they could get.
“We knew what we were getting ourselves into,” Burke said. “We knew we’d have to claw and scratch and try to figure (the Hawks) out and dig for runs.”
Second baseman Josh Shepherd also provided much of the Hawks’ offense, going 3 for 4 with three RBIs.
“We were just ready today,” Shepherd said. “Not many people get an opportunity to repeat.” Shepherd said he and Hanover’s other seniors were focused and committed. “We didn’t want to leave a single out, a single at-bat on the field.”