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Prep baseball: Null says Indians weren't an underdog

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Motivation comes in many forms.

When it comes to the Sissonville High School baseball team, it was being overlooked as a part of the Class AA Region 4 Tournament.

The Indians finished off Poca on Saturday in their best-of-three Section 2 Tournament, scoring three runs in the final four innings to turn a one-run lead they took on Friday into a 6-3 victory.

Sissonville came into the game with an 11-20 record and the heavy underdog against the Dots (23-9) - who were only four wins away from tying the school record for victories and winning their second consecutive sectional championship.

The Indians reached the State Tournament in 2010 and were Region 4 finalists in 2011, but lost in the sectional last year.

"I can't say I was mad, I was so motivated," Sissonville senior Zach Null said. "I just wanted to win so bad, not just for me because it would be my last time playing sectionals. It would be three out of four for me. It's for them so that they can keep the tradition going."

Coach Kenny Harper admitted that he doesn't put much stock in the regular season and said he thought his team could sweep the Dots.

"I tell them from the get-go that we have 32 games to figure out what it takes and find out what we have to have on the field to win," said Harper, who is in his third season as Sissonville coach and has a 40-61 record. "We had a little bit of trouble along the way, some of them got a little frustrated, and we moved people around, but that's what we were doing.

"About 20 games in, I saw something coming together."

One steady force for Sissonville has been Null.

The left-hander is the Indians' rock on the mound and has played center field and shortstop. He even caught in Sissonville's senior night game.

His plan was to play every position, but Harper said his star liked catching so much he didn't want to move.

Null's primary position is shortstop, despite being left-handed.

"I was practicing it in BP (batting practice) one day and Coach Harper noticed I could do it as fast as anybody else," Null said. "He put me there for one game and I excelled at it so, from there, it just continued."

Harper isn't taking credit for Null's ability to shift and pivot as a left-hander in the busiest infield position.

"I didn't make him a left-handed shortstop," Harper said. "He sets up good and he can make the throw. Every year I tell myself, he's not going to play shortstop in college, I'm moving him to the outfield. Every year, I come in here and can't find anybody who can do it as well."

For the season, Null is batting .484 with nine doubles, two home runs, 29 runs and 27 RBI. As a pitcher, he ha a 5-4 record in 67 2/3 innings with 73 strikeouts and 27 walks.

In the two victories over Poca, Null was 5-of-8 with a home run and four RBI.

Null, who will get the starting nod in the Region 4 semifinal on May 21, also got the win in the first sectional game.

Two years ago as a sophomore, Null wrapped up Sissonville's Region 4 semifinal victory over Poca in relief of Ryan Baldwin.'

On Saturday, sophomore J.R. Stricklen relieved junior Eli Mooney, who pitched the first three innings on Friday. Stricklen gave up just two hits with four strikeouts and two walks.

"I knew we could do it all year, but we couldn't hit the ball and couldn't get pumped up for the games," Null said. "We got momentum, so I think we can win as many games as we want to."

Herbert Hoover is the favorite to be Sissonville's opponent in the Region 4 semifinal, which gives Null a chance for redemption against the 2012 state runner-up.

Null had his worst outing of the season against the Huskies on April 4, giving up six earned runs with four strikeouts and five walks in five innings.

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


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