By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Eleven months ago, Wyoming East was the last team standing in Class AA baseball. The Warriors won their first state championship, which was also the first for veteran coach Ron “Chief” Mayhew.
They seem primed to defend that title.
Wyoming East is among the multitude of state teams that will begin sectional play today. The Warriors (19-5) will take on rival Westside in the Class AA Region 3, Section 2 tournament in Clear Fork.
Games 1 and 2 are both scheduled for 6 p.m. today and Tuesday. A third game, if necessary, would be played at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
East defeated Westside twice in the regular season, 18-1 at home and 14-1 at Westside.
Senior pitcher Derek Thornton (6-3) will likely get the call today. Last week, Thornton became the team’s all-time leader in wins with 30. He tossed a complete game in the Warriors’ 1-0 win over Herbert Hoover in last year’s title game.
Thornton has a 1.97 earned run average and 58 strikeouts.
East could also go with seniors Austin Canada (6-1, 2.60) and Christian Hedinger (4-1, 3.84).
Senior catcher Zack Whitten is hitting .519 with 25 runs batted in. Thornton is batting .437 with four home runs and Hedinger is at .434 with 10 doubles and 30 RBIs.
The Warriors have been aggressive on the basepaths. Whitten leads the team with 22 stolen bases while Hedinger has 21 and Canada 16.
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Here are a few players to watch as the postseason unfolds.
n Kevin Cottle. The PikeView ace could be the wild-card for Region 3 in Class AA. The senior right-hander is 7-2 with a 2.68 ERA, and two of his wins came against Wyoming East, one as a starter and one in relief.
n Jared Jennings. The Greenbrier West junior catcher is one of the area’s underrated players. He is hitting .422 with four homers and 21 RBIs.
n Jeremy McGinnis. The Independence catcher has worked to improve his defense, and has done well catching a talented Patriot staff that includes senior Brian Sexton and sophomore Andrue Hughart, among others. His offense isn’t shabby, either, and he provides solid pitching himself.
n Raeshawn Breckenridge. Valley’s junior outfielder, who spent his first two years of high school at George Washington, made a name for himself in football and basketball, and he has proven to be just as talented on the diamond. He’s hitting .432 with a team-best seven home runs and 39 RBIs. He also leads the Greyhounds with a .914 slugging percentage and has a .545 on-base percentage — all of that after cooling off a bit over the last week of the season.
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Valley’s Arik McGinnis and Liberty’s Jake Lacek both tossed their first no-hitters within a week, but there were two more gems in the area.
Fayetteville senior Aaron Krise threw a perfect game in a 17-0 win at Webster County last Monday. He had seven strikeouts in what was his second no-hitter of the season.
Three days later, Jeremy McGinnis no-hit James Monroe in a 10-0 five-inning win for Independence.
— E-mail: gfauber@