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Prep baseball: Aces may take week off for MSAC event

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The pitching matchups could prove to be anti-climactic when the Mountain State Athletic Conference Tournament unfolds today at Hurricane's Lola Meeks Memorial Field.

Three of the top four teams - No. 2 Huntington (17-8), No. 3 Cabell Midland (14-10) and No. 4 Spring Valley (10-11) - reside in Class AAA Region 4, Section 4, while the fourth - No. 1 Hurricane (20-3) - is in Section 3.

In today's first semifinal at 5 p.m., Huntington faces Cabell Midland, with the second - approximately 30 minutes after the completion of the first game - pitting Hurricane and Spring Valley. (See schedule of MSAC place games, 2B).

With the sectionals scheduled to begin May 6, the small window between the MSAC and postseason could put some pitching aces on the shelf this week.

Then again, Spring Valley Coach Jim Hensley said, despite his sparing use of ace Elijah Wellman, his top pitcher could see the field on Tuesday.

Wellman has a 4-1 record and a 1.97 earned run average with 42 strikeouts and nine walks in 37 innings pitched.

"We've just been throwing him once a week," Hensley said. "He pitched Friday against Parkersburg. I didn't know we were in the mix (for the MSACs).

"He might pitch the middle or latter part of this week. It depends on who plays who. If something happens. If we can squeak one out (today) and get in the championship game, you want the kids to win. If it gets in a situation where we could throw him a few innings to help us win, we might do that."

Cabell Midland Coach Tracy Brumfield said his No. 1, Seth Kinker, will likely throw on Tuesday. Kinker has a 3-4 record with 44 strikeouts and a 2.84 ERA in 37 innings.

The only Hurricane regular likely out of the mix for the MSACs is sophomore J.T. Rogoszewski. Junior Austin Hensley, who leads the team in innings (36 2/3) and has a 1.72 ERA, hasn't thrown since April 22. Senior Riley Metz last pitched April 23.

He has a 5-1 record with a 1.24 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 34 innings.

The Highlanders' left-handed curveball specialist, Stephen Holland, hasn't pitched since April 19 and has gone six or seven innings only three times.

Junior Kris VanCamp has a 4-1 record with a 2.08 earned run average and 24 strikeouts and 15 walks in 33 2/3 innings for Huntington. Senior Hunter Smith has a 3-4 record, with a 3.31 ERA, 30 strikeouts and 16 walks in 36 innings.

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SPEAKING OF Wellman, his athletic future remains in the air. Wellman has signed to play football at West Virginia University, but his post-high school career might be in baseball.

He has a 4-1 record, with 42 strikeouts, nine walks and a 1.97 earned run average in 37 innings and all of the attention from Major League scouts he could want.

"The Red Sox, Braves, Reds, Pirates, Royals, Padres, they've all been there once or twice, some three times this year," Spring Valley Coach Jim Hensley said. "The guy from the Red Sox has seen him three times. Somebody at Huntington said they had him at 93 (miles per hour)."

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EVERY DAY isn't Christmas for Nitro Coach Steve Pritchard, after all.

The Wildcats have won six consecutive Class AAA Region 4 championships - an unprecedented success rate in one of the state's strongest regions.

However, their streak is in jeopardy this season, as the Wildcats (15-10) - entering the final two weeks of the regular season - have lost six of their last eight games.

Pritchard explains his team's struggles in one quote.

"We're like the land of misfit toys. Everybody wants to be a dentist," he said.

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ST. ALBANS MIGHT have to go the rest of the season without its best player.

Joey Dodrill, who had recently recovered from arm soreness and was getting back into the rotation on the mound, suffered a hamstring injury in Saturday's 10-4 victory over Independence.

Dodrill is batting .367 with 19 RBI for the Red Dragons (17-8). His bat will be missed, but St. Albans has done without his arm most of the season.

In just 14 innings, he had a 2-1 record with 22 strikeouts, eight walks and a 1.00 ERA.

*  *  *

THE INJURY bug also has hit George Washington, which won't be able to use one of its leading hitters - Clayton Anderson - in the field.

Anderson has a torn labrum and will be limited to designated hitter duties. Anderson is batting .405 with 13 doubles, two home runs and a team-leading 29 RBI for the Patriots.

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at richstevens@dailymail.com or 304-348-4837.


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