NEW RICHMOND —
Brian Sexton will always remember the last pass he ever threw as a quarterback at Independence.
The senior stepped back and launched it, just as a Fayetteville blitz clipped his right arm, injuring the shoulder on his throwing arm and sending him on months of rehab to get it back to where he wanted as he prepared for baseball season.
Judging by Thursday night’s performance, the ace of the Independence rotation is coming back to form.
Sexton pitched a five-inning shutout against No. 6 Wyoming East, leading the No. 2 Patriots in an 11-0 smackdown of their Class AA foe.
“I’ve had a couple of tough outings,” Sexton said. “I didn’t get to start throwing until right when the season started, so I’m starting to get back into things and getting command of my stuff.”
The senior worked his fastball and moved his curveball, holding the normally hot-hitting Warriors to only three hits and sending Wyoming East to the locker room after the fifth inning for the first time this season.
“That looked like the Brian that pitched of old,” Independence coach Scotty Cuthbert said. “He’s been inconsistent of late. He pitched well at Myrtle Beach, but against Liberty didn’t throw his best stuff, even though he got the win. Today, he was able to throw his curveball for strikes and get the win.”
While Cuthbert wouldn’t admit it, the game was a statement of sorts for the Patriots, who were rebounding from a 7-5 loss to Greenbrier West during the championship game of the Jeff Treadway Memorial Wooden Bat Tournament last weekend.
“This was a big win, but there’s still a lot of baseball left,” Cuthbert said. “It was good for us to come down here and play on this field, and we played well — that’s a good thing. We struggled a little bit in the past, but got back to how we were playing earlier this year.”
The Patriots’ bats came alive early in the first inning, against the tough and talented Christian Hedinger (5-1). The senior right-hander lasted only six batters, giving up three runs on five hits.
Longtime Wyoming East coach Ron “Chief” Mayhew made the decision to bring in lefty Josh Zeboskey in the first inning to try to slow down the Independence hitting machine.
Zeboskey, who came into the contest with a 5-0 record, threw heat, but wasn’t able to take the Patriots out of the game, giving up six hits in 4 2-3 innings, due to the plate discipline of Independence.
The Patriots showed poise at bat, stretching out counts and laying down bunts to move runners into scoring position.
“We’ve been trying to make that a point of emphasis lately,” Cuthbert said. “Swinging at strikes and putting the ball in play. If you put in play, good things are going to happen in high school baseball.”
Mayhew looked at the loss as a learning experience, not just for his team, but for himself.
“I learned more than I wanted to learn,” Mayhew said. “Getting beat is a learning experience and shows you your weaknesses. We weren’t prepared to play them today. Independence is a good hitting team; they made good contact. They hit the ball well. The ball fell through; we made some bad plays. Put all that together, and you’ve got an 11-0 butt-kicking.”
The Patriots got hits from each of their top six hitters, with Wyatt Atkins going 4-for-4 and Jeremy McGinnis going 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs. Austin Canada, Hunter Simmons and Chase Presley had Wyoming East’s only knocks of the game.
Mayhew hopes to see Independence once again this season.
“In baseball, some days you got it and some days you don’t,” he said. “We’re not discouraged. We’re not happy ‘cause we didn’t win. We’re optimistic that we can still play them again and we feel like the winner of that game’s going to Charleston.”
Independence (17-6) returns to action Monday night at home against Summers County, while Wyoming East (17-4) will welcome River View tonight.
I: 320 24 — 11 11 1
WE: 000 00 — 0 3 2
I: Brian Sexton and Jeremy McGinnis, WE: Christian Hedinger, Josh Zeboskey (1) and Coty Bishop. WP — Sexton. LP — Zeboskey. Hitting — I: Wyatt Atkins 4-4, Sexton 1-3, Andrue Hughart 1-2 (2B, RBI), Brad Huffman 1-3 (RBI), Jeremy McGinnis 2-4 (2B, 3 RBI), Ryan Brandstetter 1-3, Andrew Cox 1-2. WE: Austin Canada 1-3, Hunter Simmon 1-2, Chase Presley 1-2.
Records: Independence (17-6), Wyoming East (17-4)