SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. — The Jefferson High School baseball program has been absent from the past three state tournaments in Charleston after winning the Class AAA title in 2011.
After winning 15 of its first 16 games in 2015, the Cougars have established themselves as one of the favorites to re-emerge from the eastern panhandle.
A season ago, Jefferson was eliminated by losses to Musselman and Washington in back-to-back sectional outings.
Washington eventually represented the eastern panhandle in the state tournament.
“We had beaten both of those teams twice in the regular season,” said Jefferson coach John Lowery who recently picked up his 1,200th career victory. “Anytime that happens to you in postseason play, it’s frustrating. But you had to tip your hat to Washington, and they’re very formidable again this year.”
The Cougars, with all but two starters returning, are positioned to be stronger.
“We knew coming in that we would return a group that has been together,” Lowery said. “We were hopeful coming into this year. The kids have used (last year’s postseason losses) as motivation and we’re hoping to be able to sustain it.”
Among the players who returned are second-team all-state junior shortstop Paul Witt and senior second baseman Andrew King.
“They’ve been leading the way again for us this year,” Lowery said. “They’re both very solid defensively, they have foot speed when they get on base and they hit No. 2 and No. 3 in our lineup.”
King entered the middle of the week tied with junior Charlie Barnholt for team lead at 24 RBIs. Senior center fielder Will Oliver and sophomore third baseman Austin Bulman have both been hitting around .400, while senior Brody Price is second on the team in runs out of the leadoff spot.
On the mound, Barnholt, Brad Davis and senior Andy Disque (4-0) have led the way. Lowery also has a young group of three young pitchers—Austin Cross, Bulman and Dylan Carroll—who won a combined 12 games last year as freshmen.
“We feel like we have some depth on the staff,” Lowery said. “It’s hard to find innings for everyone, but they all give you a chance to win and that’s what you’re looking for. What I like about our depth is that these kids can pretty much get a weekend in between each time they pitch. As the season wears on, that’s going to bode well in keeping their arms fresh.”
The Cougars picked up a significant early season win at the beginning of April, beating defending state champion Hurricane 4-3 as Barnholt went 3 for 3 with an RBI.
“Anytime you win a game like that, it does something for your confidence,” Lowery said. “We were pleased with the way we played, but knowing the nature of baseball, you don’t take anything for granted – other than the fact that you know you can play with them. It was a good ballgame.”
As a part of a doubleheader, Jefferson also won 5-0 over Wheeling Park, another state tournament participant from last year, beating WVU signee Michael Grove.
Jefferson has another intriguing game coming up Friday when it hosts Class AA defending state champion Bridgeport.
2015 Baseball Schedule
|03/23/15||6 p.m.||H||St. James (Maryland)||15||–||0||W|
|03/24/15||7 p.m.||A||HEDGESVILLE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL||10||–||1||W|
|03/25/15||6 p.m.||H||Woodgrove High School||8||–||1||W|
|04/04/15||Noon||A||Hurricane High School||4||–||3||W|
|04/04/15||2 p.m.||A||Wheeling Park High School @ Hurricane High School||5||–||0||W|
|04/08/15||9 a.m.||A||Westhill High School @ Mingo Bay Classic, SC||8||–||2||W|
|04/08/15||2 p.m.||A||Hammonton HIgh School @ Mingo Bay Classic, SC||7||–||11||L|
|04/09/15||11 a.m.||A||Chancellor High School @ Mingo Bay Classic, SC||8||–||0||W|
|04/10/15||9 a.m.||A||Grainger, TN @ Mingo Bay Classic, SC||11||–||0||W|
|04/15/15||7 p.m.||A||BERKELEY SPRINGS||9||–||1||W|
|04/16/15||6 p.m.||H||HEDGESVILLE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL||14||–||2||W|
|04/21/15||4 p.m.||A||WASHINGTON HIGH SCHOOL||–|
|04/23/15||6 p.m.||H||SPRING MILLS HIGH SCHOOL||–|
|04/23/15||4 p.m.||H||SPRING MILLS HIGH SCHOOL||–|
|04/24/15||3:30PM||H||BRIDGEPORT SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL||–|
|04/27/15||6 p.m.||A||Woodgrove High School||–|
|05/01/15||1 p.m.||A||Martinsburg High School @ Cooperstown, NY||–|
|05/02/15||1 p.m.||A||Musselman High School @ Cooperstown, NY||–|
|05/07/15||6 p.m.||H||WASHINGTON HIGH SCHOOL||–|
|05/12/15||4 p.m.||A||MERCERSBURG ACAD.||–|
|06/04/15||TBA||A||State Baseball Tournament||–|
|wins: 15 lost: 1 ties: 0|