NITRO, W.Va. — Since 2008, Nitro has been to the Class AAA baseball state championship game more than any other program. The Wildcats, who were runners-up in 2009 and 2012, won championships in both 2008 and 2010.
As sectional play gets underway around the state next week, it’s a younger group of Wildcats looking to add another state tournament run to Nitro’s long list of accolades.
“We have the potential to get back to the state tournament,” said head coach Steve Pritchard. “This is probably more like our 2011 team (that made the state tournament semifinals) where we didn’t have a real dominant pitcher. The other years that we have made it, we had one guy who we could put out there who threw between 85-90 mph. This year, we’re at 80-83 mph, but we play well as a team together.”
At the front end of Nitro’s pitching staff is senior Tyler Barton who threw a no-hitter back on Tuesday in a 6-0 win over Parkersburg South.
“He has thrown the ball extremely well and has been our most consistent pitcher day-in and day-out,” Pritchard said. “The thing about him is, there’s not one pitch he throws that doesn’t move. He throws a cut-fastball that’s real close to a slider.”
Junior Kip Brewer and sophomore Jake Bradley have rounded out the top of Nitro’s pitching rotation. In all, the Wildcats have six sophomores who contribute consistently.
“I’ve been pretty happy and pleased with the year overall,” Pritchard said. “We have a good mix of young talent with our seniors who have provided good leadership. We’ve had good pitching, run the bases real well and hit the ball fairly well.”
Nitro’s Region 4 out of Class AAA, meanwhile, could pose as a formidable state tournament itself with the number of highly regarded teams competing for the lone tournament spot. Aside from Nitro and sectional counterpart Logan, Hurricane, Cabell Midland and Huntington all have had strong seasons.
“I think we have a chance – I don’t think by any means, though, that we’re the favorite,” Pritchard said. “Each team has its own style of play, so each level that you advance, you have to prepare for something different.”
It’s Hurricane that heads into postseason play as the favorite out of the region. Nitro fell to the Redskins in their lone meeting earlier this year, 6-5.
“That group of kids who are juniors and seniors have now won the MSAC four years in a row,” Pritchard said of Hurricane. “They’re the same group of kids who won the state little league tournaments and have probably won close to 100 games in four years – I would have to say they’re the favorites.
“But we’ve kind of held true to one saying,” he continued. “Whether we’ve been the favorite or not (heading into the postseason), you only have to be better than the other team for about a three hour window. They can be better than you the rest of the week, but for three hours on that one day, all you have to do is be better than them.”
Sectional play begins for Nitro (21-6) on Friday, May 16th at Logan before a Saturday matchup against St. Albans.
“Logan has one of the better players in the state in Zach Minnick,” Pritchard said. “He’s one of the better pitchers and probably the best catcher in the state. He hits the ball really well and even better with guys in scoring position. They’ll play small ball, scratch out a couple of runs and they’ll play good defense.”
2014 Baseball Schedule
|4||03/27/14 07:00PM||H||POINT PLEASANT||6||–||2||W|
|8||04/05/14 06:00PM||H||LIBERTY (RALEIGH)||11||–||1||W|
|9||04/08/14 07:00PM||H||SPRING VALLEY||9||–||2||W|
|13||04/14/14 05:00PM||A||CHERRY HILL NJ||9||–||10||L|
|14||04/16/14 06:00PM||A||MYRTLE BEACH, SC||1||–||6||L|
|15||04/17/14 02:30PM||H||OSBOURN, VA H.S.||6||–||4||W|
|16||04/17/14 06:00PM||A||DREHER, SC||5||–||2||W|
|17||04/18/14 12:00PM||H||LORIS SC||12||–||3||W|
|18||04/21/14 07:00PM||A||ST. ALBANS||15||–||2||W|
|25||05/01/14 07:00PM||H||OAK HILL||3||–||0||W|
|26||05/02/14 07:00PM||A||POINT PLEASANT||10||–||3||W|
|27||05/03/14 12:00PM||A||CABELL MIDLAND||4||–||6||L|
|29||05/06/14 06:00PM||H||PARKERSBURG SOUTH||6||–||0||W|
|32||05/10/14 12:00PM||A||GEORGE WASHINGTON||–|
|wins: 21 lost: 6 ties: 0|