The CSRA Crusaders have come a long way to drop the stereotype that some associate with home-school sports. They're about to go another 470 miles.
The baseball team will compete in the National Homeschool World Series in Pensacola, Fla., beginning Monday. The Crusaders earned the No. 2 seed in their region, which has 16 teams from the eastern United States.
Chileno Valdez is in his second year coaching the Crusaders, who finished fourth at the World Series last year. He is a former Cross Creek assistant, and was the head coach at Allendale-Fairfax before taking the Crusaders job.
Valdez said the drive from Augusta to Fairfax, S.C., took a toll but that he was still willing to stay another year had the Crusaders not come calling.
"They offered me more money to stay," he said. "I would have stayed, but the guy over the Crusaders (Mac Bryan) came and offered me a job with them."
The move was significant for the Crusaders, whose players are taught at home. Before Valdez was hired, the team was coached by parents and friends. Teams looking for a morale boost were quick to try to schedule the Crusaders.
Valdez said the Crusaders tied Harlem's varsity squad during a scrimmage last summer, then beat Aquinas and Cross Creek.
"This year, we continued to win," Valdez said. "They got better day by day. They picked up on my system."
The Crusaders will find out Monday how far they've come. They lost the opening game of last year's tournament before rebounding to play for a shot at the championship game.
Valdez's team lost a close game to the Greater Gwinett Christian Barons and finished fourth. The Crusaders lost to the Barons again in this year's Homeschool World Series Association's East Regional. But Valdez is confident in his team's chances this week.
"I think we got a great chance of going down there and winning it," he said.
Valdez started a "showcase" team in the fall, with the idea of inviting some of his home-school upperclassmen to compete and try to catch the eye of college coaches.
He said both of his seniors from last year's team now play in college and that one has signed this year.
"A lot of people when they see home-school players, it's like 'Hmm, I don't know,' " Valdez said.
"I've got a lot of coaches looking at my players now."
Lions finish strong
Augusta Christian didn't qualify for the SCISA AAA state golf tournament as a team, but the school still was represented well. Two Lions golfers competed as individuals and both finished in the top five.
Matt Motes fired a two-round total of 146 to finish second, two strokes behind medalist Austin Cody of Pinewood Prep. Motes' teammate, Nick Akins, shot 148 to finish fourth.
The tournament was held April 28-29 at Quail Creek Golf Club in Conway, S.C.
Eddie Huff, of Sandler Sales Institute, recorded his first ace on May 12.
Huff's hole-in-one came at No. 12 at Bartram Trail, a 170-yard par 3. He was using a six iron.
Huff was playing in a nine-hole tournament put on by the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce for its bimonthly "Success Columbia County Style" after-hours networking session.
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