By Cam Huffman
A trip to Charleston — with a lot more on the agenda than a tour of the capitol building and a shopping spree at Charleston Town Center — will be up for grabs tonight for three area teams that are one win away from punching their ticket to the WVSSAC State Baseball Tournament at Appalachian Power Park.
At least two area teams will go, as PikeView and Independence will play for a Class AA spot and Valley and Fayetteville for a Class A spot, while Woodrow Wilson is looking to crash the Class AAA party after already eliminating the defending champion.
Riverside at Woodrow Wilson (Class AAA Region 3 Championship)
After an 8-8 start, the Flying Eagles (19-10) are one of the hottest teams around, having won 11 of their last 13 games.
In the postseason, Beckley was the second seed in the Region 3, Section 1 bracket but beat Oak Hill twice and Shady Spring once to survive as sectional champion.
Then, on Tuesday, the Flying Eagles pulled off a dramatic 2-1 win over defending Class AAA champion Princeton in a regional semifinal to advance to the championship.
Hunter Greco (5-2, 1.55 ERA) is expected to get the start tonight for Woodrow, trying to get to Charleston for the first time since 2007, and he also is the team leader at the plate with a .457 batting average.
Riverside (13-15) also used a late surge to advance to the regional championship. The Warriors went through a stretch in April where they lost nine out of 10 games. They won just three of the last 12 heading into the postseason, but there they knocked off Capital and Ripley to win the sectional crown and then downed South Charleston 4-1 in a region semifinal to move within one win of an appearance in Charleston.
Riverside, which became a school in 1999 when DuPont and East Bank consolidated, has never been to a state baseball tournament.
Originally scheduled for 5 p.m. on Wednesday, rain washed out the game and moved it to today at 6 p.m.
PikeView at Independence (Class AA Region 3 championship)
PikeView (23-10) is putting its region title hopes and a trip to Charleston for the first time since 2009 on the right arm of senior Kevin Cottle.
The Panthers’ ace is 9-2 with a 2.39 ERA and has struck out 86 hitters this season.
“Cottle is our ace in this situation,” said head coach Josh Wyatt, who led his team to a school record in wins. “He is a senior, and he definitely wants the ball in his hands.”
At the plate, Austin Cordell is the biggest threat. He’s hitting .354 with 37 runs, 24 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. Hunter Moses is hitting .330 with 19 RBIs and eight doubles.
Independence (18-8) is playing with a ton of confidence after eliminating defending Class AA champion Wyoming East in the region semifinal Tuesday night.
The starting pitcher for tonight’s game is still undecided, but Independence has two solid options in Jeremy McGinnis (5-0, 0.97 ERA) and Andrue Hughart (4-3, 4.76 ERA) available.
At the plate, the Patriots are led by Drew D’Angelo, who’s hitting .514 with four homers and 20 RBIs. Wyatt Adkins isn’t far behind, hitting .442 with a pair of homers and 34 RBIs.
As strong as those numbers are, Independence hangs its hat mostly on defense.
“We’ve played pretty good defense all year,” said head coach Scott Cuthbert. “We’ve turned several double plays this year. We’re getting better with that.”
First pitch tonight is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
Valley at Fayetteville (Class A Region 3 championship)
Valley (22-7) has won 14 of its last 17 games since losing to Magnolia and Sissonville in early April and is seeking its third straight Class A state tournament appearance. The Greyhounds survived a scare against Man in the regional semifinal Tuesday night.
The ’Hounds are led by Arik McGinnis, who’s hitting .473 with 14 doubles, four homers and 40 RBIs. Raeshawn Breckenridge is hitting .427 with eight homers, 12 doubles and 40 RBIs.
McGinnis (3-3, 3.07 ERA) is expected to start tonight’s game.
Fayetteville (18-14), last went to the state tournament in 2010. The Pirates, though, had little trouble with Greenbrier West in Tuesday’s region semifinal.
Aaron Krise has thrown three no-hitters (one a perfect game) for Fayetteville this year and is batting .360. Trey Phares has also tossed a pair of no-hitters.
Infielder Jake Holland and centerfielder Brian Gore are among the leading offensive producers.
Tonight’s game is scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. start.
— Assistant sports editor Gary Fauber, staff writer Steve Keenan and Brian Woodson (Bluefield
contributed to this story.