Prep baseball: Hall, Warriors a big obstacle for Black Eagles
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Shortly after South Charleston eliminated rival George Washington from the baseball postseason on Friday, the Black Eagles set their sights on today's matchup with Riverside.
The Class AAA Region 3 semifinal set for 6:30 p.m. at Bryan-McIlwain Field offered the Warriors an opportunity to rest more than a week after getting through Capital and Ripley in the Section 4 tournament.
Riverside (12-15) will send Tyler Hall to the mound, as if the Warriors needed yet another advantage.
"Outside of (Elijah) Wellman down at Spring Valley, he's probably one of the top two or three pitchers in the state," South Charleston Coach Kenny Samms said. "He's smart, he beats the strike zone and has a good little breaking pitch and he doesn't walk people."
Hall has a 4-3 record with 70 strikeouts and only 14 walks in 53 2/3 innings. His earned run average is a deceptively high 2.35. Hall also has two games in which he finished with 12 strikeouts - against Beckley and Winfield, both of which are sectional champions.
The key, Samms said, is to work on the pitch count of Riverside's star.
"We have to make him throw strikes and hopefully we can put the ball in play and make them make some plays," he said.
South Charleston (16-13) hopes to counter with Jerod Jobst, but the Black Eagles' ace threw on Friday in the Section 3 championship less than three days ago and might not be ready.
That could put the Black Eagles in quite a fix, considering after Jobst its pitching staff includes a pair of freshmen.
"They (Riverside) have a (Arik) Sikula, we don't," said Samms, referring to his star player in 2006 who helped lead the Black Eagles to the Class AAA state title. "They've got a horse right there. I wish I had a horse."
That's where the strategy comes in for the Black Eagles, who expect Hall to be around the strike zone, but want to use their pitches wisely.
"You have to have a plan," Samms said. "He beats the strike zone. One way to get his pitch count up, you can't be first-pitch swinging. You have to have a game plan."
The winner of this game moves to Wednesday's 6:30 p.m. Region 3 championship when it will visit the winner of the other semifinal between Princeton and Beckley.
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WINFIELD WILL have its hands full against Logan (20-9) today when the two square off in the Region 4 semifinal at 6:30 p.m. at Winfield.
The Generals (14-16) appear to have hit their stride, winning four of the last five games, including a 5-2 victory over defending Class AAA champion Princeton in a Mountain State Athletic Conference placement game.
Winfield received a pair of sterling pitching performances in the best-of-three Section 1 tournament against Point Pleasant, limiting the Big Blacks to two runs in two games. In fact, in victories over Spring Valley (9-0) and Point Pleasant (2-0), the Generals earned their first two shutouts of a very trying season.
Shortly after a 9-8 loss to Spring Valley on March 30, pitching ace Mason Dillon was off the team. Pitcher Dana Harper also was suspended for a violation of team and school policy.
Harper is back, providing the team with pitching depth while the other parts come around.
A steady defense led by shortstop Brandon Wright, an offense led by Jordan Clark and the combined pitching, hitting and defensive efforts of senior Josh Bumgarner have helped Winfield reach the regional semifinal for the second consecutive year.
Clark is batting a team-leading .376, while Bumgarner is at .372. Bumgarner also has a 7-3 pitching record with 36 strikeouts and team-low 3.24 earned run average in 36 2/3 innings.
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CHARLESTON CATHOLIC is two games from earning its third consecutive State Tournament berth when it faces Wahama (18-11) today at Point Pleasant.
The heavily-favored Irish (25-9) have beaten the White Falcons by a combined score of 36-5 in two meetings, including a 24-3 victory at Mason on April 30.
Charleston Catholic has won 13 of its last 14 games and hasn't lost to a Class A team since an 11-8 defeat to Valley at Smithers on April 18.
Leading the Irish bats is senior Rocco Wilcox, who is batting .429 and has walked a team-leading 39 times. Wilcox is one of six Catholic players batting above .350.
The ace on the Irish pitching staff is senior Kiefer Hovorka, whose 1.31 earned run average leads the team, He's also second on the team in strikeouts with 65 in 53 1/3 innings.
The winner of this game advances to Wednesday's Region 4 championship game at the winner of the Gilmer County-Parkersburg Catholic.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at email@example.com or 304-348-4837.