HURRICANE - The Hedgesville High School baseball team capped a remarkable season for Eastern Panhandle varsity athletics.
This school year's major Secondary School Activities Commission championships were dominated by schools in Berkeley, Hampshire and Jefferson counties.
The five big schools in Berkeley and Jefferson counties have traveled far for titles, but have gone home happy in football, boys basketball and baseball.
Martinsburg claimed its third consecutive Class AAA football crown, its second basketball championship in five seasons and Hedgesville won the school's first baseball championship, one year after the school claimed the basketball title.
The population boom in the areas near the District of Columbia doesn't appear to be letting up, leading to a seventh Class AAA school between Hampshire, Jefferson and Berkeley counties.
Spring Mills High School has adopted the nickname Cardinals and will open for the 2013-14 school year. The redistricting to accommodate the fourth Class AAA school in Berkeley County will take enrollment from students in the Martinsburg and Hedgesville districts and will open with just a freshman, sophomore and junior class.
The Eagles (29-7), who capped Dirk Webb's third season as head coach with a Class AAA state championship, will lose two varsity players - sophomore Matthew Mason and freshman Cody Hammond - and about half their junior varsity players to Spring Mills.
That doesn't mean a repeat title is impossible, but Webb notes that Spring Mills will be well prepared to start its baseball program.
"They're going to have some talent up there," said Webb, who in 2011 took over for Ben Merica, who stepped down after 25 years as head coach. "I think, initially, it'll hurt us as far as Hedgesville from a baseball standpoint. Next year we're going to have a lot more players on our squads that haven't played baseball for a high school team, whether freshman or sophomore, get into the system."
Spring Mills Coach Mark Salfia, a 33-year-old former Liberty-Harrison and Alderson-Broaddus player, doesn't mind the influx of coached players despite the competition the program faces.
"Just looking at our numbers and our addresses, just about all the kids we have signed up are Hedgesville kids," said Salfia, serving as assistant coach for the North in Sunday's North-South All-Star Game. "There's plenty of kids in that building (Hedgesville) and they're very well coached, so they're going to keep winning."
Martinsburg won't lose any players to Spring Mills.
"It's incredible," said second-year Martinsburg Coach Josh Matheny, a 32-year-old who served at Musselman for seven years before coaching the Bulldogs. "I think it's just the luck of the draw where they live. We had one kid that was potentially lived on the line, but he's a Martinsburg kid. Hedgesville basically is chopped in half."
The Cardinals will be moving into a crowded region that competed with Region 4 - which includes Cabell Midland, Hurricane, Spring Valley, Huntington, Nitro and Logan - as king of the hill in West Virginia.
Eleven-time state champion Jefferson and four-time titlist Martinsburg are joined by Hampshire, which won 25 games this season, and 21-game winner Musselman, in Region 2.
According to the SSAC enrollment figures, Hedgesville has grown from the 12th-largest school in the state with 939 students in 2002, to the fourth-largest with 1,711 following the most-recent reclassification prior to this past school year.