WILLIAMSON, W.Va. - The Ambassador Christian Eagles (ACA) have had a tough time getting games in during the early part of the 2018 season for a multitude of reasons. One reason for that, they have to share a home field with multiple high school and middle school teams. The main reason for lack of games is the sub par weather that we have had in the Tug Valley region as of late. Coach Larry Vance and his ball club are traveling south this week in search of a week full of sunshine and dry fields.
The Eagles are scheduled to play in the Space Coast Baseball Classic this week down in Cocoa Beach, Florida. This is the second consecutive year that Coach Vance has taken his ball club down to this event in Florida during spring break. "We've looked forward to this trip for the last two years," Vance said. "Not only do we get in games down there but valuable practice time on the different fields as well. The weather is always 10-15 degrees warmer down there."
Coach Vance is in his second season leading the baseball program at ACA after an extended stint as the head coach at Man High School in Logan County. Vance was the Head Coach at Man for the 2005 and 2006 seasons and then again from 2009 to 2016. During his time there Man made the state tournament in class A six out of ten times and won the 2014 class A state championship at West Virginia Power Park in Charleston. They were state runners up three times during his tenure.
In his short time at ACA, Vance has changed the culture of the baseball program. "When they brought me on at ACA, they said they wanted to become the top baseball program in this area," Vance said. "That is what we are striving to be."
The Eagles have been able to get six games in so far in 2018; notching wins against Belfry, Shelby Valley, and Tolsia. "We're three and three so far this year and all of our wins have been clean games in all three phases of the game, hitting, pitching, and defense," Vance said. "Our three losses have been exactly the opposite. So we're just looking to find that consistency that it takes to be a good ball club."
Rahkim Gray and Zach Samuel provide the senior leadership for Coach Vance's squad as they are the only seniors on the roster. Gray, who was recognized as a NACA All-American as a junior for ACA, is the best all-around athlete on the team. He can play multiple positions and provides speed on the base paths for the Eagles. He also provides some innings on the mound for the Eagles. Samuel is another utility guy for the Eagles. He has been in the program multiple years after he transferred from Tug Valley.
Brothers Dakota McCormick and Dylan McCormick both come over to the program from Scott. They both have solid bats with Dakota supplying more power. He connected for a home run in a win earlier in the season against Belfry.
Casey Hurley is the top pitcher for the Eagles for this season in what is only his freshman season. He already has two wins on the season as he picked up the victories against Belfry and Shelby Valley. Hurley is the younger brother of former Man High School and Alderson Broaddus standout Travis Hurley. Travis, who also played some semi pro ball, is now an assistant coach on this current ACA team. He also played for Coach Vance when he was a player at Man High School.
Malik Gray, Austin and Adam Rahe, Shawn Sipple, Isaiah Hackney, Ryan Cozart, and Chris Osbourne round out the rest of the roster for Coach Vance. Mark Samuel and Donald Lafferty also assist Vance and Hurley.
The Eagles are scheduled to play four games while in Florida, all of which will be against schools that are much larger than they are. They are playing games against Woodford County, Ky., Enderlin, ND, Newton, Ohio, and Cleveland Heights, Ohio. They will stay in Florida from April 2 until April the 7 to try and take as much advantage of the good weather as they can.
The Eagles will have a home game at Lefty Hamilton Park vs. Sissonville on Thursday, April 12th. That game is scheduled to start at 6 p.m.
Jarrid McCormick is a Sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted by email at jmccormick@HDMediaLLC.com.