The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

High School Sports

June 3, 2014

Indy seniors have been huge

When a team that has had success puts a lot of seniors on the field, expectations understandably tend to get a bit lofty.

Everybody knew Independence was the favorite to come out of Region 3 this year based on, one, its state tournament appearance last year and, two, all those seniors in the starting lineup.

Ensuring that his players accepted those expectations and deflected the attention has been the biggest challenge for second-year Patriots coach Scott Cuthbert.

“At times is has (been tough),” Cuthbert said, “but for the most part they have stayed grounded and have done pretty well.”

Of course, a 9-6 loss at Greenbrier East to start the season opener could potentially have been a detriment. Instead, the opposite seems to have happened.

“That might have been the best thing to happen to us,” Cuthbert said. “It made them realize teams were not going to lay down. They had to go out and play and prove they deserved those preseason accolades.”

More than two months later, the Patriots are right where everyone thought they would be.

Indy (26-7) will take on Region 1 champion Fairmont (22-8) Friday night in the Class AA state semifinals at Charleston’s Appalachian Power Park. First pitch will be 30 minutes after completion of the other semifinal between Bridgeport and Chapmanville, which starts at 5 p.m.

There are eight seniors on the Independence roster, and all eight either start or make significant contributions. They are shortstop Wyatt Adkins, pitcher/infielder Brian Sexton, catcher Jeremy McGinnis, first baseman Dean Milam, second baseman Brad Huffman, left fielder Tanner Muovich and right fielder Andrew Cox.

Colton Ward has scored 37 runs in 31 games as a courtesy or pinch runner.

“It has been really big,” Cuthbert said of the senior experience. “For the most part everybody has been on an even keel. The expectations were high but they put in the time to get where they are.”

There are definite stars on the team, but one who seems to get overlooked is Huffman. He is hitting .406 with eight doubles and 31 runs batted in, and has provided a steady glove at second base. He moved there from third with the unenviable task of replacing all-stater Drew D’Angelo.

“The last couple of years he has been our catalyst,” Cuthbert said. “Every day he comes in and plays hard. He doesn’t worry about his numbers. He has been the heart of this team the last couple of years.”

Adkins transferred from Oak Hill last year with D’Angelo, a situation that could have been disruptive. But the players rallied around their new teammates.

“I didn’t know how that would go, especially with it being by first year,” Cuthbert said. “But as a whole the kids accepted them and they seemed to get in with what we do here. It has been a good mesh.”

— E-mail: gfauber@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @GaryFauber.

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