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H.S. baseball: 'Last Inning' a lift for seniors amid series of setbacks

H.S. baseball: 'Last Inning' a lift for seniors amid series of setbacks

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Symbolically speaking, Christian Fisher avoided the heartache of strike three.

Strike one came late in December 2019 when the college baseball aspirant found out that his high school program at Craig County would be shelved.

After a quick pivot by securing a new educational base and top-flight baseball program upon a transfer to defending Class 1 state champion Auburn, Fisher and the Eagles were three weeks into preseason workouts when the severity of the worldwide viral pandemic became apparent.

Then came more crushing news. All state high schools along with their baseball programs would close for the year.

Strike two.

So be it, but nevertheless, youthful resilience, public spiritedness, and baseball are hard to kill.

With many thanks to the Salem-Roanoke Baseball Hall of Fame and the Salem Red Sox, the cinematically-named “Last Inning” was contested with a nine-inning twinbill Saturday at Haley Toyota Field. Fisher was one of the now graduated seniors on four teams granted the privilege of one more high school ballgame.

Fisher was listed as a second baseman-outfielder-pitcher for Team Green, which played Team Blue in the nightcap. The games finished late Saturday. Fisher anticipated beforehand playing all three positions.

After all the setbacks, zigs and zags baseball has given him, one more dream came true with Saturday’s events.

“I wanted my grandfather to have a chance to see me play.”

That is Dallas Fisher, himself a Salem-Roanoke Hall inductee and all-purpose Craig County baseball icon. It has been said that if he didn’t actually invent the sport in the county, he more than any other most certainly nurtured and kept it alive.

By coincidence, Christian Fisher’s Team Green coach Wes McMillian of Salem High is Dallas Fisher’s longtime coaching associate. Joining McMillian in the dugout Saturday were fellow coaches Kelly Dampeer of Northside and Jeremy Cromer of Glenvar.

On the topic of college baseball, that’s one more dream snatched from despair’s clutch by Christian Fisher. The 2020 baseball season was going to be his last chance for college scouts to take a look at him.

Despite commendable on-field results at Craig County in seasons past, college interest was not overwhelming.

When he subsequently joined forces with Eric Altizer’s Eagles, all that changed with multiple lines of communication opening with the next level. The result was an accepted offer from Southwest Community College in Richlands.

With fall baseball canceled there, Fisher is looking forward to preparations for the 2021 season.

Say this about the versatile Fisher: He knows how to make a good baseball impression.

“He fit right in with us,” Altizer said. “I think he was so happy to be in our program. He worked so hard.”

One of only two seniors on the team, Fisher was absolutely delighted to be in Riner.

“They helped me get better in the months I was there.”

Once he found out that Craig County ball was kaput for the time being, Fisher immediately set his mind to finding another place to play. A connection with Auburn pitching coach Billy Wells set the process in motion.

Other good outcomes followed.

Before that, playing with a travel team during a workout at Concord University last fall, somebody for Southwest C.C. saw him.

“They weren’t interested in me at first, but for some reason after I transferred to Auburn, a couple of colleges perked up and started talking to me.”

When the offer from Southwest was proffered, his response was immediate.

“I jumped on it.”

Fisher’s was one of many happy endings — and beginnings — in Salem on Saturday.

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The Virginia High School League on Friday modified its guidelines for out-of-season practices, paving the way for more team-based workouts including the use of sport-specific equipment.

It is not full-scale out-of-season practice or open gyms, but it is a step up from individual conditioning drills that teams have been limited to since the VHSL began allowing limited workouts in late June following the complete shutdown caused by the virus in March.

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