By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Ron “Chief” Mayhew is about to enter his 40th season as a high school baseball coach. It would be natural if names and years were to run together.
But when it comes to fun, nothing has ever topped the feeling he got to experience last June.
For the first time in 39 years, Mayhew finally knew what it meant to be a state champion. Wyoming East outlasted Herbert Hoover 1-0 in the Class AA state title game, capping a season that Mayhew will never forget.
“It was just tremendous fun,” he said. “What fun it was.
“Getting beat is fun, but not as much fun as winning. It’s like when you’re little and your buddy beats you. You don’t quit. You tee it up again tomorrow.”
Something about baseball brings out the kid in the Warriors’ veteran coach. But, as he said, it’s time to start all over again.
East returns several members of its championship team, but there are also key losses. Most notable is pitcher Travis McKinney, a first-team all-stater who went 10-3 with a 1.90 earned run average. He struck out 12 and didn’t allow an earned run in the Warriors’ 5-1 semifinal win over Liberty Harrison.
Also gone is right fielder Jarret Caldwell, who was East’s leadoff hitter. Caldwell made a diving catch to end a Hoover threat in the third inning of the title game.
Josh Zeboskey, who showed a lot of potential last season, transferred to Greenbrier East.
Big losses, indeed, but don’t feel sorry for the Warriors. There is plenty of talent coming back.
Pitcher Derek Thornton returns for his senior year. The right-hander limited the Huskies to four hits, struck out five and walked three in a complete game. He finished the season 10-2 with a 2.14 ERA.
“He is super,” Mayhew said of Thornton, a second-team all-stater. “He is a battler. You want him on the mound. He’s tough. He’s not like Nolan Ryan out there, but you want him out there.”
Other starters back for the Warriors are catcher Zach Whitten, left fielder Brian Lusk, third baseman Christian Hedinger, shortstop Austin Canada and first baseman Derek Laxton.
Among the players who gained experience last season include infielder/outfielder Jon Culicerto, who scored the lone run against Hoover, first baseman/left fielder Chase Presley and outfielders J.R. Haynes and Michael Browning.
East, which will begin the season Wednesday, March 20, at Liberty, will also rely on several new players to contribute.
As with most teams this time of year, the Warriors have been limited in their outside practice time.
“We got out (Monday) and hit some fly balls,” Mayhew said. “The infield was too soft to hit grounders. Except for running and throwing in the parking lot, it hasn’t been dry enough to be productive. But we’re prepared to play when we do get outside.”
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