The fickle April weather made it feel more like ski season as opposed to spring Friday night in southern West Virginia.
However, on the turf at Linda K. Epling Stadium, it was all about baseball when Greater Beckley Christian and Teays Valley Christian squared off for the West Virginia Christian Athletic Tournament championship.
The weather conditions were not the primary concern for the Crusaders on this night. Greater Beckley hit the field with one mission on its mind, defend the WVCAT title which it had owned for the last four seasons.
Thanks to a strong pitching performance and a timely hit from Blake Hunt, the Crusaders walked away with their fifth consecutive WVCAT baseball title.
“We started off a little rough with some base running mistakes, but in the the end we hit the ball well. We did it as a team,” Greater Beckley head coach J.P. Stevens said.
Teays Valley entered the game as the No. 1 seed, thanks in large part to a 3-1 win over the No. 2-seeded Crusaders earlier in the season. Round two was expected to be a tight clash and through three innings that is exactly how the game played out with neither team able to score.
The momentum changed in favor of the Crusaders in the fourth inning.
Will Graham opened the fourth with an infield single before back-to-back walks loaded the bases with no outs giving Greater Beckley a golden opportunity to score. However, as quick as threat materialized, it seemed to have disappeared when Hunt finally stepped to the plate.
Needing any type of contact to break the scoreless tie, Greater Beckley had instead struck out on back-to-back at bats. Hunt righted the ship and provided the spark that pushed Greater Beckley over the top.
Fighting off a high and inside pitch, Hunt hit a single to right field for the game’s first run, but that was just the beginning of the excitement for the Crusaders.
The ball was misplayed by the right fielder and when it rolled to the wall, the Crusaders cleared the bases with Hunt coming all the way around to score.
“Blake was the same kid for us yesterday. The game was 0-0 and we were being no-hit,” Stevens explained. “He got a triple in that game to start a rally. Same thing happened here tonight. The right fielder kind of misplayed the ball and on this field, the ball is going to the wall. Blake has good speed, so it was an easy four runs. After that the momentum swung to us.”
Greater Beckley added one more run in the inning when Andrew Patterson tripled behind Hunt and scored on another Lions error.
Teays Valley’s best chance to score came in the home half of the third inning.
Two walks and an error on a ground ball loaded the bases for the Lions with no outs, but Greater Beckley quickly squelched the fire. Starter Seth Wolfe coaxed an infield fly before catcher Andrew Patterson picked off the runner at third on a failed squeeze attempt. Wolfe then set the Lions down with his sixth strikeout of the game and the Lions never quite recovered.
“We have five kids in the starting lineup that really have never played high school, or hardly any baseball,” Stevens said. “The pitching is one thing we do have and it is dominant. When they get themselves in a pickle, they can pitch their way out of it where other kids can’t. That is our strong point.”
Wolfe pitched five innings, allowed just two hits, while striking out nine batters. Hunt came on to finishing the game, allowing only one hit, while recording six strikeouts over his two innings of work.
Greater Beckley scored its final run in the seventh inning on an RBI-single from Garrett Matherly.
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GBC: 000 500 1 — 6 6 3
TVC: 000 000 0 — 0 3 2
GBC: Seth Wolfe, Blake Hunt (6) and Andrew Patterson; TVC: Reed Fisher, Andrew Breeding and Andrew Breeding. WP: Wolfe, LP: Fisher. Hitting: GBC: Blake Hunt 2-4 (rbi), Andrew Patterson 1-3 (3b), Garrett Matherly (1-2 (rbi), Reece Standard 1-4 (2b); TVC: Reed Fisher 1-4, Andrew breeding 1-3, Jonah Tincher 1-3.