HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. — The Class AAA defending state champions have been on a roll of late, but still have some major ground to cover if the Eagles want to lift that trophy in consecutive years. Hedgesville enters regional semifinal play with a 19-8 overall record, with a difficult test on Tuesday evening against 21-4 Washington out of Class AAA Region 2.
Washington won the first meeting between the two teams back on April 5th, 9-1.
“We faced them earlier in the year in a wooden bat tournament, so you know it’s really hard to get a read on hitters in a wood bat tournament and how they’re going to handle a metal bat in their hands,” Hedgesville coach Dirk Webb said. “You know you have Jared Silva sitting there from Washington, a Division I signee (with VMI), and obviously he has the kind of talent to sit somebody down.”
Hedgesville, meanwhile, has handled the pressure well of being the defending state champions in Class AAA.
“Each team and each year is completely different,” Webb said. “We set out this year to do the most with what we have. We don’t necessarily have the same offense as we had last year, and we don’t necessarily have the same defensive team. It’s just one of those things where our road to wherever we want to get to is going to be a lot harder this year than it was last year.”
The winner of Hedgesville/Washington will play either Lewis County or Hampshire, who will face-off in the other regional semifinal game.
Buffalo eliminates Charleston Catholic, looks ahead to rival Wahama:
If you would like to know the definition of resilience, just ask the Buffalo baseball team.
After dropping the first sectional game (in a best-of-three series) to defending Class A state champion Charleston Catholic last week, the Bison responded with impressive 2-1 and 13-6 wins, advancing to the regional semifinals.
Buffalo received a terrific outing on the mound in game two from senior Jordyn Caplinger.
“He’s not our best pitcher, but the reason why I put him on the mound is I knew he’d be intense. He was angry and he pitched angry the whole game – he one-hit those guys and he should have no-hit them,” Buffalo coach Jimmy Tribble said. “I got a lot of funny looks, I’m not going to lie to you, when we walked into the ballpark, but as a coach, it’s my responsibility to know the heartbeat and the pulse of the team.”
The Bison built off of that nail-biting 2-1 win with a decisive game three win over the Irish, jumping on Catholic senior ace Connor Golden.
“Winning game two, I think, turned all the momentum around. In game three, we came out with 16 hits, absolutely pounded the ball, and pounded the guy that beat us the first game,” Tribble said.
Up next for the Bison (17-11) will be a familiar foe in Wahama (17-9). The two teams have long been sectional counterparts, but the most recent regional alignments put the two rivals in opposing sections.
“They’re going to come in here ramped up,” Tribble said. “Their pitcher (senior Hunter Bradley) is 6-foot-4 and he throws it well. He’ll throw quite a bit harder next week against us because it’s Buffalo.
“It’s a big rivalry. We used to be in the sectional together, and now we’re in the regional together, so it makes it even bigger. There will probably be 800 people here Tuesday night for a Class A baseball game,” he continued. “I think it’ll be a tight ball game. I think it’ll be the team that makes the routine plays, and pitches ahead of hitters that will win the ball game.”
Senior Aaron Lewis, the expected stater against Wahama, has given Buffalo the most production offensively and as a pitcher. The dual-threat has penciled in a .402 batting average and has stolen 28 bases. More impressive, though, are his 117 strikeouts in 54 innings on the mound (out of a possible 162 outs), to go along with a 2.00 ERA.
Wahama, meanwhile, is in its sixth straight regional appearance and coming off of a Tri-Valley Conference (Hocking Division) championship game win from over the past week.
The winner of Wahama/Buffalo will play the winner of Gilmer County/Parkersburg Catholic in the regional final.
Moorefield earns A+ in small ball:
The (20-10) Yellowjackets, like Buffalo, had to overcome an early sectional loss to win three straight elimination games on the way to their Class A Region 2 semifinal game against Pendleton County (22-8) next week.
The two teams split a pair of games in the regular season. Moorefield dropped the first one 9-8 back on April 8th, then took the second 5-1 on May 1st.
“Both games were very good, very close. Their offense makes you play defense – they make you get outs and put the pressure on your pitcher,” said Moorefield coach Wade Armentrout. “Luke Yokum is one of their best players. He pitched against us a couple of times, and he’s one of their best hitters.”
Junior pitcher Dakota Vetter will get the start on the mound for Moorefield.
Home runs and the offensive power have both been few and far between the Yellowjackets, however, it hasn’t been quite the obstacle Armentrout had first anticipated. Over the course of the season, Moorefield has finally found their offensive identity — small ball.
“We’ve been doing it in different ways. We’ve been able to steal some bases recently. Doing it with bunting and some sacrifice flies. So we really have to do things methodically and take advantage of every opportunity,” he said. “We haven’t been that way in the past, but it’s just the type of players and characteristics that we’re trying to coach with, and these guys have really bought into it and I’m impressed.”
With a mainly junior-heavy squad, first baseman and clean-up hitter Seth Stickley has been the key senior for Moorefield. He has posted a .315 batting average and .500 on-base percentage.
“We’re really looking forward to our top six hitters. They’ll be able to carry us,” Armentrout said. “These guys really learned the game throughout the season to know that if we get a guy in scoring position by putting down a bunt, then one guy gets a hit and that’s going to score a run for us. So, it’s really developed as the season has gone along.”
The winner of Moorefield/Pendleton County will face the winner of Notre Dame/Tygarts Valley in the Class A Region 2 final.