, 2015

Winning generations:
Son joins mother as state champion

by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi

Marian Leigh George Walker’s mother’s intuition was working overtime.

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Marian Leigh George Walker and her son, Brandon, of Reedville were both on state championship teams.

But when she predicted Northumberland High’s baseball team would win the Group 1A state tournament days before the players even left for Radford University and Virginia High School League’s Spring Jubilee, her son got nervous.

“Mom came up to me a couple days before we left for the state tournament and gave me a hug and said it’s just crazy how we both won state championships. She said we did it,” said Brandon Walker. “I said, Mom don’t jinx us.”

Marian Leigh was just stating a fact. She was convinced, no ifs, ands or buts, that her son and his teammates would bring home the state crown, just as she and her teammates did for Lancaster some 35 years ago.

You see, Marian Leigh and Brandon are a mother and son combo like no other in Lancaster or Northumberland counties. Marian Leigh was an outfielder on the LHS state softball championship team of 1979, and Brandon was the starting catcher on the 2014 NHS state baseball championship team. The ‘79 team was the only one in LHS history to win a state softball title and the NHS ‘14 team is the only state baseball champion in school history.

Marian Leigh’s voice caught, her throat choked up and her eyes became teary when asked about the day her son and the Indians won the title just a month ago on June 14. Coincidentally, it was also Brandon’s graduation day.

“I’m so emotional about that day I can’t even talk about it,” she said. “All his hard work and all the team’s hard work came together that day and it’s still hard to talk about it.”

Brandon had an RBI double in the state final to help the Indians beat Honaker, 9-3. He also went 2-for-3 with a double and single and had three put-outs, one at each base, in the semifinal.

Brandon is a four-year veteran of the varsity team and this year had a .493 batting average with 37 RBIs, 25 runs scored, two home runs, 20 singles, 11 doubles and a triple to be named Conference #43 and Region 1A player of the year.

Along with making the all-conference and all-region teams, Brandon was named to the all-state team following the VHSL tourney.

Just last week, he went 2-for-3 with a single and two-run homer to be named the MVP of the East team in the Virginia High School Coaches Association East/West All-Star game at Liberty University.

He’ll head to Christopher Newport University next month, where he’ll play baseball.

Needless to say, mom and dad, Joey Walker, are proud.

But Marian Leigh has her own accomplishments to be proud of. Although they didn’t keep stats as well 35 years ago as they do today, she said, she has her old LHS softball uniform mounted and framed in a shadow box. She’ll probably do the same with Brandon’s jersey.

Marian Leigh was a starting left fielder as a 16-year-old sophomore in 1979 when the Lady Devils beat Clifton Forge, 16-1, for the Group A title. The state championship game was held on the field behind LHS.

Carol VanLear was the coach, said Marian Leigh, and the Lady Devils went 21-1 in the regular season. They won three regional games and two state games to claim the crown.

Marian Leigh was named all-district and all-region that year.

“I remember we won the game and five of us jumped in a car and headed to Myrtle Beach for a band trip,” she said.

Several NHS players were missing something important too the morning they won the state title in Radford. Six of the players were seniors, including Brandon, and were missing NHS’s commencement back in Claraville.

Instead, the six boys donned their caps and gowns and graduated on the baseball field.

“It’s where they wanted to be,” said Marian Leigh. “To put your gown on over top of your uniform and graduate, then take it off and play ball, there’s no better feeling than that. And then to win the state championship on top of graduating that day. I told Brandon his wedding day probably won’t even live up to that feeling.”

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