CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WTKR)- Disappointing starts don't mean a season will end the same way. Hickory's 2022 baseball team is the perfect example.
As the calendar turns to June, some might reflect back to April when the Hawks may not have been expected to be playing at this point. They had a little trouble spreading their wings out of the gates as they stumbled out to a 5-7 start.
"At the beginning of the season, we were struggling a little bit," recalled Hickory junior outfielder Austin Jones. "We lost two of our big guys."
"We definitely had a hard season," added Brandon Walsh, a senior pitcher for the Hawks. "It wasn't our best season."
However, Hickory proved that it's never too late for a turnaround. The Hawks found themselves refocused and rejuvenated as the season continued and came alive, winning nine of their last ten games and climbed to the top of the mountain in Region 5A.
"We just started taking practice real seriously and bonded and picked each other up," Walsh said.
"After we came back from spring break, our seniors really wanted it, so they put the work in," Jones noted. "Everyone follows the seniors. That's just how it goes. The seniors led this team to get the turnaround going."
The high point of that rally came at the beginning of the week. Hickory entered the region tournament as the number four seed, but found its bats at the most important time of the season. The Hawks stunned top-seeded First Colonial in Monday's semifinals, 4-3, and followed that up on Tuesday night with a 13-10 slug-fest victory over defending state champion Frank Cox, claiming the regional crown.
"This is awesome. I love this team," smiled Walsh following the title game win. "This is my last year playing. I'm not going on, but just to finish out like this and we're still going, extend the season, it means the world to me."
"This region title means a lot," Jones added. "I've been working for this for the past three or four years, so it means a lot to me and I know these seniors. It means a lot to them, too."
Now the Hawks turn their attention to bringing another trophy home. They're just three wins shy of the program's first state championship since 2014.
"I think we're a really dangerous team when we put things together and if we keep doing what we're doing, keeping our mindsets right, then I think we can go far," said Walsh.
His teammate Jones agrees.
"The goal is to win the big one, all or nothing," the outfielder said. "If we win that, it would mean a lot to this program."
Hickory will host the state quarterfinal on Tuesday against either Nansemond River or Granby.
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