Saturday was almost a perfect day for William Monroe's Jordan Gentry. In the same afternoon, the senior got both a state championship trophy and his high school diploma.
But someone was missing.
"My mom passed away a couple of months ago," Gentry said after the Greene Dragons' 5-4 win over Chilhowie in Saturday's Division 2 baseball state title game. "At the beginning, when we put her in the grave, we all said we were going to win a state championship. Every huddle we had. Every get-together we had, we said, 'Let's do it for BG.'"
Brenda Gentry was diagnosed with brain cancer in November 2010, and died of the disease this past March. After watching his mother fight for more than a year, Gentry's been motivated by her memory ever since.
"He is amazing. No 16-year-old boy should have to go through what he went through," Monroe baseball coach Mike Maynard said. "He's handled the situation with the passing of his mother better than we handled it."
"We didn't know how he'd handle it," Gentry's senior teammate, catcher Logan Forloines, said. "And as soon as the funeral was over, he wanted to come back to the baseball field and get ready to practice and stuff. We just love that kid so much."
"He is a strong boy," said Maynard. "He wakes up every single morning with a smile on his face. He prays and talks to his mom every single day."
Gentry, who was the 2011 Jefferson District player of the year after a 10-0 season on the mound, earned the same honors from the Bull Run District and Region B this spring. On Saturday he was the Greene Dragons' starter against the Warriors, pitching into the eighth inning.
Monroe won the game on an RBI single by Keegan Woolford in the bottom of the eighth. And even if Brenda wasn't cheering from the stands, she was still helping the Greene Dragons.
I went to him today when I thought the umpire kind of squeezed him a couple of times, and he was getting upset," Maynard recalled after the game. "And I told him, 'You know your mother would want you to calm down right now.' And he said, 'Coach, you're right.'"
Gentry said the motivation of winning the state title in his mom's memory "meant everything."
"Every second I was out there, that's what was on my mind," he said. "And I know every one of my brothers out here was the same way."
"Right before the game we said we'd better win this for Brenda, and we did it," said Forloines. "It's just a happy ending, is what it is."