CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Hurricane won its third Class AAA baseball state championship on Saturday, beating Wheeling Park 11-5 from Appalachian Power Park in Charleston.
It’s the second title in five years for the No. 1 Redskins (34-4), adding to championships won in 2002 and 2014.
“The strength of this team was depth,” said Hurricane coach Brian Sutphin. “We have 10 seniors and those guys are very committed to one another. It’s not about adults – that’s a group of young men who have put in countless hours of working out together, hitting together and making those kind of sacrifices as a group. You want it so bad for them.
“Our kids are blessed,” he continued. “They have great assistant coaches and the community support is outstanding. It’s hard not to be successful. Those kids want it really bad – and sometimes when you want it really bad, it’s a detriment. But it was nice to see them will their way.”
Liam Bailey got the start for Hurricane on the mound, going two innings and giving up four runs on five hits. Noah Short entered the game in relief, going five innings, giving up just one run on three hits and striking out three.
“It’s amazing,” Short said. “It’s a dream come true. They called on me to do a job and I was sure as heck going to do it – I just had to be myself and put pressure on their offense.”
Short at the plate also delivered a clutch two-RBI single with the bases loaded in the fourth as the Redskins expanded a 5-4 lead out to 8-4 in the inning.
After Wheeling Park added a run in the top of the fifth, Hurricane took complete control in the bottom of the sixth with three more insurance runs, highlighted by a two-RBI triple from talented sophomore Tyler Cox.
“The key for this game was our dugout energy, we had a lot of energy and that kept us in the game,” Cox said. “We just did our thing. We have such a tight bond.”
Cox had a big tournament overall with three sacrifice flies in the Redskins’ semifinal win over Martinsburg.
On Saturday he went 3 for 3 with two RBIs, two runs scored and a standout play defensively at second base to end the second inning.
“Tyler is an absolute warrior,” Sutphin said. “He was a wrestler when he was younger and I think that toughness from wrestling certainly has carried over. He’s been great. He pitched in all three games in the sectional. He’s outstanding.”
Nathaniel Dunham and Short both finished with two RBIs apiece for the Redskins as well.
After falling in an early hole, Wheeling Park rallied with two runs in the second and two more in the third before Hurricane started to pull away.
The Patriots, who played a near perfect game defensively in the semifinals against St. Albans, committed four errors on Saturday.
“We got off to a good start and battled back when we got down, which I knew we would,” said Wheeling Park coach Mike McLeod. “But then we just didn’t make the routine plays. A lot of that has to do with what (Hurricane) does. If you don’t make routine plays against great teams, this is what will happen.”
Shortstop Trevor Thomas led Wheeling Park (21-7) at the plate, going 2 for 3 with two RBIs. Five Patriots’ pitchers combined for the six innings of work on the mound.
The runner-up finish ends the head coaching tenure for McLeod with the Patriots who said earlier this year it would be his last season.
“It’s been short under most coaching standards, but it’s been awesome. I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” McLeod said. “I love my guys, I love my city and I love my school. It’ll be tough.
“But the one thing I can tell you is that I think this Wheeling Park team will be back,” he continued. “They’re full of juniors and I think they loved what happened here – not getting beat, but getting to the title game, the atmosphere – and I think it will get contagious.”
Hurricane, meanwhile, for a second straight year entered tournament play as the title favorite, but reversed their fortune on Saturday after a disappointing championship game in 2017 left them as runners-up.
“Any time you get to this point, it’s been a great season,” Sutphin said. “And once you’ve been here, it makes you that much more hungry to get another shot at it. Today, they were on a mission to finish it off right.”
2018 Class AAA All-Tournament Team:
- Jake Carr, St. Albans
- Kyle Farmer, Martinsburg
- Tyler Cox, Hurricane
- Bo Adkins, Hurricane
- Trevor Thomas, Wheeling Park
- Zach Hickman, Wheeling Park
- Jonathan Blackwell, Hurricane
- Chandler Kelley, Hurricane
- Ben Taylor, Wheeling Park
- Noah Short, Hurricane
Highlights from the AAA title game: