Prep baseball: Wriston powers Beckley past Riverside
BECKLEY, W.Va. -- Logan Wriston watched his fly ball sail toward the fence in left centerfield, unsure if it would reach the wooded area beyond the 385-yard sign.
The Flying Eagles' smallish center-fielder had four home runs last season as a sophomore, but hadn't hit one in 2013.
Then, the ball ricocheted off a tree beyond the fence and back into the field, giving Beckley a three-run lead toward a 7-1 win and its first Class AAA Region 3 championship since 2007.
"He threw a lot of curveballs, so it's going to take a toll on your arm," Wriston said of Riverside starting pitcher Cam Norris. "I knew I had to change something when I struck out the first time. I picked it up from there."
Wriston's momentum-swinging blast helped send Beckley to the State Tournament semifinals on May 31 against Cabell Midland at approximately 7:30 p.m. at Appalachian Power Park.
Perhaps the best part of Wriston's home run was that it came after the Warriors (13-16) intentionally walked No. 2 batter Hunter Greco.
"You just have to clear your mind and focus on the pitch," Wriston said on Norris pitching around Greco to reach him. "Definite payback, for disrespecting me."
The decision by Riverside Coach Chris Hawkins to pitch around Greco was the result of his performance in two meetings this season against the Warriors. Greco was 1-for-3 in their first meeting, but 4-for-4 with a double and an RBI against Norris on April 29 - a 5-3 Beckley victory. Wriston was 1-for-4 with an RBI in that game.
"We haven't gotten Greco out in two games," Hawkins said. "With a base open, we had a really good scouting report. We wanted to go after him and Wriston stepped up and made it hurt."
The Flying Eagles (20-10) poured it on in the fourth inning, using a hit batsman, a walk and a Jacoby Webb double, followed by back-to-back squeeze bunts for a 7-0 advantage.
Norris had only 13 balls in the 38 pitches he threw the first three innings, so Beckley knew strikes were coming.
"He was around the zone a whole lot," said Beckley Coach Mark Daniel, who is in his 13th season guiding the Flying Eagles. "We knew we could bunt. We spend hours everyday, bunting, squeezing, slapping and we know one through nine can bunt."
Protecting a seven-run lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, rain coming down and dark, ominous skies rolling over the field, Beckley bunted three consecutive batters to end the inning quickly and beat the weather.
Riverside managed to bring a run across in the seventh with the help of a Chaz Davis double and a wild pitch as the rain continued.
However, Greco closed it out with a strikeout, completing a five-hitter with 11 strikeouts and one walk - which came in the final inning.
"(The three-run homer) was the turning point of the game," Greco said. "I think when it got into the fifth and sixth inning, all they wanted to do is kill the ball.
"It was just curveball, curveball, fastball. Curveball, curveball, fastball. It was pretty easy."
Riverside loaded the bases in the first inning on a first-pitch single by Derik Chestnut, a hit by Brady Wilkinson and the first two catcher's interference calls on Beckley catcher Daniel Rose. However, Greco got Chaz Davis to ground out.
The Warriors got the lead runner on in the second and third innings, only to come up short.
"Hat's off to Greco, he threw a heck of a game," Hawkins said. "We came out and I thought our plate approaches were really good the first three innings. We had runners on the first three innings and we couldn't get them in. We got down 3-0 and I think we panicked a little bit. We tried to do too much at the plate and we overwhelmed ourselves, something that is uncharacteristic of us."
NOTES: In Beckley's last two appearances at the State Tournament, Jefferson won the Class AAA championship (2005 and 2007). In 2005, Fairmont Senior topped Beckley 5-4 in the semifinals. In 2007, Beckley defeated Nitro 8-7 in eight innings before losing to the Cougars 11-4. Both seasons, Daniel's team finished with 18 victories (18-11 in 2005 and 18-11-1 in 2007). This year, the Eagles won't be sharing the field which Jefferson, which was eliminated in the regional semifinal by Hedgesville. Beckley is 20-10, its best record going into the State Tournament under Daniel, who took over as coach in 2001.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.