CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two programs with a rich history of getting to the high school baseball state tournament will face off on Friday in the Class A semifinals.
Charleston Catholic enters the matchup against No. 4 Moorefield as the top seed and defending state champion.
“We have a great attitude, a great team chemistry and we have a confident group of guys,” said Charleston Catholic coach Bill Mehle. “When the stakes get bigger, the best teams are able to stay calm, confident and keep competing. We’ve been preaching and practicing that all year, so hopefully we’ll rise to the occasion.”
The Irish (25-12) survived a couple of marathon battles in regional play to advance back to Appalachian Power Park, beating Greater Beckley Christian 8-7 in 13 innings in game one and then 13-9 in nine innings in game two — a contest that was suspended in the top of the ninth due to darkness and completed the following day.
“When you get deep into the postseason, you anticipate that it’s going to be a dogfight to see who can prevail,” Mehle said. “It was definitely a memorable regional tournament for us and we’ll be talking about that one for a long time, to play 22 innings of baseball in two games in order to win the region.”
Despite returning a solid core from last year’s title team, it’s been a freshman who as led the Irish at the plate and on the mound.
Jacob Hufford enters Friday’s contest hitting .470 on the year with 30 RBIs and 35 runs scored. On the mound, the freshman standout is 7-1 with an ERA of 0.98, striking out 43 in 50 innings of work.
“He’s a great, rising star in our program,” Mehle said of Hufford. “We started him out in the nine-hole after he earned a place in the starting lineup early in the season. We’ve moved him to the three-spot, to the six-spot and since the end of April has been hitting leadoff for us. He’s doing a great job.”
Behind Hufford at the plate, Marshall Pile (.458, 24 RBIs, 19 runs scored), Thomas Blaydes (.402, 33 RBIs, 37 runs scored), Timothy Kawash (.394, 24 RBIs, 30 runs scored), Brandon Combs (.388, 38 RBIs, 28 runs scored), Dom Martin (.381, 29 RBIs), Brendan Lanham (.375) and Parker Ross (.362) have all been hitting over .300.
John Hufford (4-1, 2.25 ERA), Combs (5-4, 4.67 ERA), Blaydes (3-2, 4.09 ERA), Lanham (2-3, 3.23 ERA) and Pile (4-1, 2.83 ERA) have all logged at least 29 innings on the mound as well.
“We need to embrace and enjoy the experience, soak it all in,” Mehle said. “When we start taking pregame, it’s like any other game, play one pitch at a time. If we do take care of business and play to the best of our ability, we have a good shot at prevailing.”
Moorefield (21-9), meanwhile, is looking for its first baseball championship since 2009, returning to the state tournament for the first time since 2015.
The Yellow Jackets have been one of the favorites in Class A throughout, holding a top five MetroNews ranking going back to April 8.
Moorefield has played a grueling schedule itself, only falling to an in-state Class A opponent once, 6-5 to Pendleton County on April 30.
Of the Yellow Jackets’ eight in-state losses, five of them have come to state tournament teams in either AAA or AA (Wheeling Park, Frankfort twice, Martinsburg twice).
“As the season has gone along, we’ve just tried to get better, working defensively to improve our team,” said Moorefield coach Wade Armentrout. “We were hoping our schedule would prepare us and get us ready for the postseason. We’ve really done a good job of fielding the ball and our pitching staff has been great throughout the season.
“We’re as prepared as we can really be for this time of the year,” he continued. “We have a great mixture of senior players and a lot of players have contributed as freshmen and sophomores. We’re really excited for the opportunity that these young men have.”
Garett Haggerty leads the Yellow Jackets in wins, posting a 7-2 record with a 1.92 ERA. Haggerty has struck out 60 batters in 47 and one-third innings of work.
Derek Hoyt (3-1, 0.92 ERA), Isaac Van Meter (5-1, 3.21 ERA), Black Watts (4-3, 2.42 ERA) and Hayden Baldwin (1-2, 3.94 ERA) have all thrown at least 21 innings on the mound as well.
At the plate, Brent Moran has led the way, posting a .400 batting average to go along with 15 RBIs and 35 runs scored. Jake Ours leads the team in RBIs with 33, also scoring 32 runs and hitting .375 on the year.
Watts (.390), Baldwin (.348), Van Meter, (.321), Lane Ours (.307) and Haggerty (.298) and Thomas Williams (.275) are a few of the other standouts offensively.
“The middle of our order has really been key for us,” Armentrout said. “Jake Ours and Garett Haggerty were on the state tournament team from 2015. They have some experience there and know what it’s like to get to this point in the season.
“The game itself is going to be the same,” he continued. “But the atmosphere is something I want our players to enjoy. That’s a very good team in Charleston Catholic, they’re well coached and we’re looking forward to the matchup. When you get to this point in the season and you get to the state tournament, those teams have all earned their way there.”
Friday, June 1: Session 2 (Class A semifinals)
5 p.m. — No. 1 Charleston Catholic (25-12) vs. No. 4 Moorefield (21-9)
50 minutes after game one — No. 2 Wheeling Central (23-4) vs. No. 3 Ravenswood (24-10)
Saturday, June 2 (Championship Saturday)
10 a.m. — Class AAA state championship
45 minutes after awards presentation — Class AA state championship
45 minutes after awards presentation — Class A state championship