Saturday, July 13, 2024

York High Baseball Wins First State Championship Title in 35 Years

York High School baseball proudly displays its 2024 State Championship trophy. (Courtesy of Nick Ham)

YORKTOWN — The York High School baseball team hadn’t earned a championship ring since 1989. That all changed on June 8 when the team brought home a state title by defeating Liberty Christian Academy.

Nick Ham, in his second season as York High head coach, has helped turn the program around from a three-win squad in 2022. In 2023, the Falcons won the district tournament but were ousted in the regional matchup by one run.

In 2024, the Falcon baseball season started off with a 1-4 record before spring break. After returning from break, Ham noticed a difference in his players.

“When we got back from spring break, some things kind of ironed themselves out. We had to battle through a handful of injuries here and there, our lineup was always piecemeal, the pitching staff was held down by a couple of guys stepping into roles that they weren’t necessarily slated for, but they did a great job doing it. When we hit playoffs, we just really hit our stride and were able to put together a pretty awesome run,” Ham said.

After facing off against Brentsville District in the quarterfinals and Pulaski County in the semifinals, York High School earned itself a trip to the championship game against undefeated Liberty Christian Academy.

As the seniors raced from graduation in the morning to the ball field in the afternoon, Ham had a feeling in his heart that his team might be able to pull off a victory.

“Our district is extremely difficult, we beat up on each other during the regular season and not many teams come through unscathed. In the first inning, we scored two runs and I knew it was going to be back and forth competitive game. Liberty Christian was 24-0 going in, so we knew we had a tall task,” Ham said.

After trading runs each inning, York High School pulled ahead by one in the fifth inning to go up 6-5. To seal the victory, senior Casey Cheaney, in his final high school at-bat, hit a grand slam to end the game with a 10-5 victory.

York High baseball seniors Casey Cheaney, Jack Herrmann, Coach Ham, Bobby Holihan, Cole Draper, and Carl Schwarting celebrate winning the Virginia State Championship. (Courtesy of Nick Ham)

When the final out was called, Ham met his team on the field to celebrate.

“All that kept going through my head was ‘we did it, we flipping did it.’ We all ran out to the middle of the field and were jumping up and down and hugging. Nobody picked this group of kids to make the run they did. From the time they entered high school until now, it was only recently that these kids had the confidence to believe in themselves that they’ve earned it and they deserve to be there,” Ham said.

Ham said they couldn’t have closed the season in better fashion.

“It really was a storybook ending. Our athletic director was retiring and he’s always been a big baseball supporter. He played at York on the 1987 team that went to the state championship game but lost. For him to retire and to be able to go out with a baseball state championship team, it was a pretty awesome feeling,” Ham said.

On June 18, the Washington Nationals recognized the York High School team during an on-field pre-game ceremony. The team was also able to watch the game and celebrate its victory together one last time.

“Not many people get to say that they are a state champion. Being a state champion is not something that is ever guaranteed,” Ham said. “That makes it that much sweeter that this group, who helped turn around the program last year, was able to put the icing on the cake and cement the fact that we’re here and our win wasn’t a fluke.”

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