charleston — Huntington St. Joseph Central baseball coach Dave Jenkins was faced with a tall task this spring.
His Irish only had 11 players on the roster, but for Jenkins, it was quality over quantity. Together, the small group stormed its way to the state baseball tournament, turning heads along the way.
The journey did not go unnoticed as several players earned postseason accolades, none bigger than junior Lenny Washington. Washington was named the captain of the all-state first team in Class A, his third straight appearance on the first team as selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
“Lenny is a phenomenal kid,” Jenkins said. “It’s a once and a lifetime experience to coach and be around a kid like that. He’s gotten better maturity-wise. I can’t say enough about him. I’ve had coaches call me and see him practice and they think he is a JUCO kid. He is a diamond in the rough talent and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get drafted right out of high school.”Washington posted a 2.32 ERA with a 7-3 record and 80 strikeouts this season, but there was one performance that stood out from the rest.
“On the mound, we played Fairland. He threw a perfect game in five innings and only threw 58 pitches and 49 of them were strikes,” Jenkins said.
“It was 85 degrees and when it’s above 70 degrees, he is a different animal. At the plate, he hit a ball at Dawson-Bryant this year that probably traveled well over 400 feet.
The ball just sounds different when it comes off his bat. I can’t explain it.”
Along with Washington’s remarkable season, his teammate — junior pitcher Hunter Eplin — also collected first team honors.
Eplin finished the campaign with a 1.93 ERA, an 8-2 mark and brought a .410 batting average to the dish.
“Our saving grace to having 11 kids was that we had six solid pitchers,” Jenkins said. “Eplin was right there with Lenny. I was holding (Eplin) for the championship because Lenny was our big horse that got us here, but (Moorefield) just put the bat on the ball.”
Senior J.T. Hensley of Sherman makes his second appearance on the first team with a microscopic 0.97 ERA, a 10-2 record and an eye-popping 159 strikeouts. Moorefield’s Isaac Van Meter (7-0 with 0.70 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched.) rounds out the first team pitchers.
Joining Van Meter as the only other sophomore on the first team is Wheeling Central shortstop Avery Lee. After being used as a pinch runner in the state title game his freshman year, the young leadoff hitter made his presence felt this year. He batted .354 with a home run, 20 RBI, 14 stolen bases and 36 runs.
“Last year we brought him up at the end because he played jayvee,” Wheeling Central coach Bo McConnaughy said. “I saw the potential in him right there. He is starting to show signs of leadership and he is a great kid. I think he’s going to be a helluva player.”
Joining Lee on the first team infield are Charleston Catholic junior Thomas Blaydes (.527 BA, 46 RBI; 5-3, 49 K), Parkersburg Catholic senior Ty Sturm (.432 BA, 4 triples, 28 RBI) and Ritchie County junior Zach Knight. Senior Jacob Hoyt of St. Marys is the first team catcher with an impressive .473 batting average, 31 RBI and 13 doubles.
The outfield is led by Tyler Consolidated senior Tyler West, who compiled a .583 average with three home runs and 25 RBI. Notre Dame junior Sam Romano and Summers County senior Sam Wykle fill the other outfield spots.First team utility spots belong to Charleston Catholic junior Marshall Pile (9-1, 79 K; .513 BA), Williamstown senior Cullen Cutwright (7-0, 1.55 ERA, 85K) and Moorefield senior Blake Watts (.354 BA, 1 HR, 30 RBI).
The second team in Class A is led by senior captain and outfielder Tank Smith of Buffalo. Charleston Catholic junior Parker Ross and Wahama senior David Hendrick earned the other outfield positions.
Second team pitchers include Wheeling Central junior Adam Murray, Paden City senior Trey Slider and St. Marys senior Jack Hadley.
Four seniors make up the infield with Noah Beter (Huntington St. Joe), Trin Scott (Cameron), Nate Hanshew (Midland Trail) and Jordan Dempsey (Fayetteville).
Senior Eric Williams of Tolsia is the second team catcher, while seniors Tim Thorn (Pendleton County), Elias Gordon (Notre Dame), junior Patrick Copen (Parkersburg Catholic) and sophomore Hayden Baldwin (Moorefield) round out the utility spots.
WVSPWA CLASS A
P – J.T. Hensley, Sherman, Sr.
P – Isaac Van Meter, Moorefield, So.
P – Hunter Eplin, Huntington St. Joe, Jr.
C – Jacob Hoyt, St. Marys, Sr.
IF – Thomas Blaydes, Charleston Catholic, Jr.
IF – Ty Sturm, Parkersburg Catholic, Sr.
IF – Zach Knight, Ritchie County, Jr.
IF – Avery Lee, Wheeling Central, So.
OF – Sam Romano, Notre Dame, Jr.
OF –Tyler West, Tyler Consolidated, Sr.
OF – Sam Wykle, Summers County, Sr.
UTIL – Lenny Washington, Huntington St. Joe, Jr. (Captain)
UTIL – Marshall Pile, Charleston Catholic, Jr.
UTIL – Cullen Cutwright, Williamstown, Sr.
UTIL – Blake Watts, Moorefield, Sr.
P – Trey Slider, Paden City, Sr.
P – Jack Hadley, St. Marys, Sr.
P – Adam Murray, Wheeling Central, Jr.
C – Eric Williams, Tolsia, Sr.
IF – Jordan Dempsey, Fayetteville, Sr.
IF – Nate Hanshew, Midland Trail, Sr.
IF – Trin Scott, Cameron, Sr.
IF – Noah Beter, Huntington St. Joe, Sr.
OF – Parker Ross, Charleston Catholic, Jr.
OF – Tank Smith, Buffalo, Sr. (captain)
OF – David Hendrick, Wahama, Sr.
UTIL – Patrick Copen, Parkersburg Catholic, Jr.
UTIL – Hayden Baldwin, Moorefield, So.
UTIL – Tim Thorn, Pendleton County, Sr.
UTIL – Elias Gordon, Notre Dame, Sr.
Special Honorable Mention
Leewood Molessa (Williamstown), Ciah Kennedy (Ravenswood), Matt Saxon (Paden City), Trent Lynch (Williamstown), Tatem McCloy (Ritchie County), Hunter Hickman (Wirt County), Trenton Frame (Gilmer County), Pat Mirandy (Magnolia), Tanner Lett (Doddridge County), Garrett Collins (Notre Dame), Ethan Hager (Notre Dame), Brent Robinson (Notre Dame), Will Strickland (Charleston Catholic), Sonny Peluchette (Wheeling Central), Angelo Gentile (Wheeling Central), Ryan Cross (Magnolia), Silas McKeever (Magnolia), Gage Huffman (Tyler Consolidated), Jake Rice (Tyler Consolidated), Jessop Broughton (Cameron), Garrett Scott (Cameron), Andrew Patterson (Greater Beckley), Seth Wolfe (Greater Beckley), Garrett Matherly (Greater Beckley), Cy Persinger (Midland Trail), Colin Dempsey (Midland Trail), Max Holland (Fayetteville), Hunter Rinehart (Fayetteville), Chad Ramsey (Greenbrier West), Caleb Harvey (Summers County), Lane Ours (Moorefield), Brent Moran (Moorefield), Derek Hoyt (Moorefield), Matthews Jenkins (Moorefield), Kole Puffenberger (Pendleton County), Grant Evick (Pendleton County), Logan Whetzel (East Hardy), Andrew Tharp (East Hardy), Garrett Collins (Notre Dame), Justin Frazier (Notre Dame), Austin Bailey (Tolsia), Cory Sweeney (Huntington St. Joe)
Avery Taylor (Ritchie County), Jake Rice (Tyler Consolidated), Eric Illar (St. Marys), Hayden Swain (Ravenswood), Clayton Thomas (Paden City), Silas McKeever (Magnolia), Gage Huffman (Tyler Consolidated), Landon McFadden (South Harrison), Noah Dyer (South Harrison); Preston Tucker (Buffalo), JW Armstrong (Charleston Catholic), Connor Blakley (Charleston Catholic), JC Custer (Wheeling Central), Kyle Newmeyer (Wheeling Central), Jordan Stackpole (Paden City), Jake Gamble (Magnolia), Caden Cisar (Magnolia), Dylan Seckman (Tyler Consolidated), Aidan Lucey (Cameron), Noah Neely (Cameron), Chase McClung (Greenbrier West), Reece Standard (Greater Beckley), Travis Scarborough (Midland Trail), Alex Miller (East Hardy), Noah Miller (East Hardy), Seth Smith (East Hardy), Zach Colebank (Tucker County), Easton Snyder (Tucker County), Nicholas Hiett (Paw Paw), Megan Brown (Paw Paw), Dylan Moreland (Paw Paw), Carson Stuart (Tolsia), Ethan Varney (Tug Valley)