Wheeling Central braces for what figures to be competitive regional series against Williamstown

WHEELING, W.Va. — Monday marks the start of regional baseball play across West Virginia with 24 teams from three classifications vying for 12 spots in next week’s state tournament.

Among the top matchups across the state in best-of-three matchups includes the top two Class A teams in the MetroNews Rankings entering the postseason — No. 1 Williamstown vs. No. 2 Wheeling Central.

Both teams entered the postseason with three losses, including one to each other, and realistic aspirations of concluding their season on championship Saturday in Charleston. By week’s end, however, one will have secured a berth in the state tournament and the other will be starting their offseason earlier than desired.

“No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the state. It is a shame it works out that way, but we’re going to go down there and give it our best shot,” Maroon Knights’ head coach Todd Cover said. “Both games we played with them were close. We know it’s going to be close. We’ll try to limit mistakes and limit walks and the baserunners we give them, because their lineup is very potent. If we can do that and hit a little bit, we can hang in there with them and hopefully come out on top.”

Five weeks ago, Central handed the Yellowjackets their first loss this season by rallying from an early four-run deficit to prevail, 8-6. One week later, Williamstown evened the season series with a 3-2 victory against the Maroon Knights.

Each team remains unbeaten in Class A play with the exception of a loss to one another and both rolled to a 3-0 record in sectional play. The Yellowjackets outscored the opposition 32-3 in the process, while the Maroon Knights have 31 postseason runs in the postseason to one for their opponents.

Williamstown has already eliminated defending runner-up Tyler Consolidated, which prevented the Yellowjackets from appearing in a third state tournament in as many years in 2023. The Maroon Knights had their way in an 11-0 victory against Cameron last Wednesday, ousting a competitive Dragons’ team that entered that won 22 games.

“Central is going to be a tough out for anybody. They’re good and they’re deep,” Cameron head coach Adam Angel said. “They’re excellent kids and baseball players and they’re coached well.”

Angel believes what makes the Maroon Knights’ depth particularly imposing is that it allows them to consistently force opponents to make plays. The Dragons were shutout across five innings of the sectional final by right-handed sophomore Brayden Cover, who benefited from pitching with a comfortable lead over the last four frames after Central’s five-run first.

“They put pressure on you. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the mound, they challenge you when you’re in the batter’s box and we chased pitches and were out in front,” Angel said. “Kudos to Brayden. He pitched a good game. They didn’t strike out very many times. They put pressure on us by hitting the baseball and putting it in play. They ran the bases well. They’re really good.”

Many of those traits also apply to Williamstown, a program that qualified for the state tournament in 2021 and 2022, but finished a semifinalist both years.

Williamstown opens at home Monday before Game 2 of the series shifts to the J.B. Chambers I-470 Sports Complex in Wheeling on Tuesday. If necessary, Game 3 would be Wednesday at Williamstown.

Based on season results and the pair of head-to-head matchups, a series pitting two of the top Class A programs in the state looks as likely as any to go the distance.

“They’ve thrown their best against us I think and we’ve thrown our best against them, so there’s going to be no surprises,” Todd Cover said. “It’s who’s going to show up and play better. Hopefully it’s us this time.”

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