CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The Class AAA baseball state tournament semifinal games are set for Friday from Appalachian Power Park.
FRIDAY CLASS AAA SEMIFINALS
10 a.m. — Washington (23-4) vs. Hurricane (27-7)
A couple of teams from opposite ends of the state will meet in the first Class AAA semifinal. Washington makes the 307-mile trek to Charleston having won 14 games in a row, including a regional semifinal ousting of defending state champion Hedgesville.
The Patriots have relied on a strong pitching staff to navigate into and through the postseason.
“We have 17 guys on our roster and 12 of them can pitch,” said Washington coach Mark Hash. “We’ve been real fortunate and I think we probably have the best overall pitching staff in the state. We have five kids that can start and seven guys who we can bring in at any time.”
Washington is led on the mound by VMI signee Jared Silva.
“He throws 88-91 mph and is a good looking kid at 6-foot-4, 195 pounds,” Hash said. “His ERA is down under 1.00.”
Washington’s team ERA as a whole is around that mark as Ryan French and Mark McKee could also be on the mound throughout state tournament play, along with closer Zach Burch.
Offensively, Washington has three players batting over .400, including senior center fielder Bryan Bayliss, Silva and sophomore utility player Robert Cross.
“One thing we’ve done is stepped up big with runners on base,” Hash said. “We’re good all the way through the order, one through nine.
“We’re anxious to get to Charleston and play. Hopefully we put a good showing on and bring some hardware back to the eastern panhandle. Hurricane is an outstanding program that’s won 27 games this year. They’ve got a real good pitcher and we’ll probably see the best two pitchers in the state in that semifinal game.”
That top pitcher for Hurricane is junior J.T. Rogoszewski, who will be on the mound in Friday’s matchup.
“J.T. first and foremost is just a winner,” said Hurricane coach Brian Sutphin. “He’s a great kid and comes from a great family. He’s just gotten better and better, improving each year. He’s mentally tough and our guys feel comfortable and confident when he’s on the mound.”
The Redskins, who won the Class AAA championship in 2002, finally got back over the postseason hump this season in getting to Charleston. Hurricane eliminated last year’s state runner-up Cabell Midland 1-0 in regional semifinal action and then took down perennial power Nitro 9-2 in the regional final.
“Our strength is that we’ve been productive up and down the order,” Sutphin said. “We’ve had good at-bats one through nine in the order, and from what I gather, that sounds a lot like the team that we’re getting ready to play.
“We’ve got a tall task at hand with Washington,” he continued. “We know we have our work cutout and it’s not going to be easy. But anything worth having never comes easy. You don’t win 14 in a row without doing a lot of things right. That’s a talented group and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Approximately 12:45 p.m. — Riverside (21-10) vs. Wheeling Park (20-6)
The second Class AAA semifinal features a Riverside team making its first ever appearance in the state tournament against a Wheeling Park club making its first trip since 1989.
Riverside is also in its third head coach within the past year as assistant Patrick Voelsang took over in the middle of the year. Senior pitcher and infielder Cameron Norris leads the way for the Warriors overall – he threw a three-hitter in his team’s 1-0 regional semifinal win over George Washington.
The Warriors advanced to the state tournament with a 9-4 win over Greenbrier East.
In those regional wins, Riverside avenged a regular season 10-0 loss to George Washington and 16-7 regular season loss to Greenbrier East as well. The Warriors enter tournament play having won eight straight games.
Wheeling Park, meanwhile, found its way to Charleston behind starting pitchers Justice Jackson and Michael Grove.
“They’re two very different pitchers,” said Wheeling Park coach Mike McLeod. “Michael throws a little harder than Justice, but Justice throws all three pitches for strikes in different locations. He’s not as powerful as Michael, but he makes you think a lot as a hitter, you don’t know what pitch is coming at any point in the count. Justice hasn’t lost all year and they both challenge each other.”
The Patriots advanced into state tournament play after beating Morgantown last week 9-6 in the Region 1 final.
“It’s been very exciting,” McLeod said. “It’s a piece of history—you’re talking about high school that’s been around since 1976 and only one other team has gone to the state tournament. But we still have a job to do, we don’t just want the excitement of being in Charleston, we feel like we have a lot more baseball to play.”
The Patriots are looking to make a little noise at Appalachian Power Park representing the northern panhandle.
“We don’t focus on what anyone else is doing, just what we’re doing. We’re excited to go to Charleston for the opportunity to show them that we play baseball up in the north too,” McLeod said.
“Our kids don’t really look at it and I’m not a numbers guy, but you look at the polls that are out there and sure you have Jefferson and Washington in there, along with Nitro, Hurricane and George Washington—all probably deserving,” he continued. “But Brooke up here was really good this year and I think we’re good, I just think sometimes we don’t get the just that we deserve.”
An opportunity McLeod’s club with have the chance to earn this weekend.