By Cam Huffman
It’s a shame that the state baseball tournament will begin next week at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston without an area representative from Class AAA’s Region 3. Following Independence’s run will be great, but when it comes to doughnuts, sandwiches, paychecks or area representatives in Charleston, the more the merrier.
Riverside found a way to come out on top in Class AAA Region 3, and I tip my hat to the Warriors. They deserve to be there. But judging by the games I saw from Greenbrier East, Shady Spring and Woodrow Wilson this year, the tournament will be missing something without one of those teams involved.
The Section 1 tournament was one to remember with some classic battles among Woodrow, Shady and Oak Hill. The three games between the rival Tigers and Flying Eagles in the postseason were classics, especially the two 3-1 Shady triumphs.
But the drama didn’t end with that talent-rich sectional.
The region semifinal between Shady and Greenbrier East was one of the best high school baseball games I’ve seen in years. It had everything — rain, stolen bases, infield hits, bang-bang plays, passionate fans, motivated players and plenty of drama. It wasn’t always pretty, but both teams clearly left everything on the field before the Spartans eventually prevailed in 11 innings. It was one of those games where you hated to see either team lose.
The good news is that there are likely more classics to come.
Both the Region 3, Section 1 champion (Shady) and Region 3, Section 2 champion (Greenbrier East) will return the bulk of their squads in 2015.
The loss of Jordan Meadows, Drew Green and Timmy Culicerto will surely impact the Tigers. All three played a huge role in their success this year. But there’s more youth behind them than in a church nursery.
The rest of the Tiger squad will be back on the field, most of them for more than one more season. Austin Wood (freshman), Brian Schack (sophomore) and Michael Hill (sophomore) all have at least two more years in front of them, and those three youngsters combined to drive in 44 runs and score and score 44 more this season.
They’ll also have veteran leadership with Ryan Snodgress and Brandon Thompson back. Snodgress finished 6-2 on the mound with a 2.14 ERA, while Thompson was 2-1 with a 3.84 ERA.
The bad news for Shady is that only two Greenbrier East baseball players walked across the stage at graduation Friday night in Fairlea, and neither was in the starting lineup when the Spartans knocked off the title in the region semifinal Tuesday.
East will return three players that hit over .400 this season — Colby Johnson (.446, sophomore), Jonathan Carr (.492, sophomore) and Daylon Colley (.473, freshman). The Spartans will bring back their top two pitchers in Carr and Ethan Boone, and they’ll get some senior leadership from Boone, Tyler Canterbury — who knocked on the door by hitting .393 this season — and catcher Josiah Solak, who are all coming off big junior seasons.
It’s hard to ignore Woodrow, who went to the 2013 state tournament. The Flying Eagles also return a solid core with Brandon Chandler, Brent Osborne, Hunter Halstead, Dylan Foster and David Rose, among others. That group has been a part of 37 wins the last two seasons.
Oak Hill made strides this season and will have Derek Bloomfield, who hit .420, Ricky Epperly, Jacob Crouch, Austin Harler, Jacob Cassidy, Charles Miller and Joey Lokant back in the lineup with starting experience when the 2015 campaign begins.
What’s all this mean? In short, the area’s Class AAA teams were good this season, and they’re only going to get better.
If we’re not in Charleston covering Class AAA baseball at this time next year, or even 2016, I’ll be very surprised.
And if not, they’re going to be fun to watch anyway.
— E-mail: chuffman
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