PARKERSBURG -It has been more than a quarter century since Parkersburg South participated in the West Virginia State High School Baseball Tournament.
The Patriots' last appearance in the Final Four came in 1987.
That could change today as South serves as the host team for the Class AAA, Region I championship game set for 6 p.m. at Hank Greenburg Field pitting the Patriots (25-9) against Morgantown (22-8).
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Parkersburg South's Brad Brubaker begins his delivery to a Parkersburg hitter in a sectional tournament game. Brubaker and his South teammates host Morgantown at 6 p.m. today at Hank Greenburg Field in the Class AAA, Region 1 championship game. The winner advances to next week's West Virginia State Baseball Tournament in Charleston.
The Patriots and Mohigans hooked up in a doubleheader at Morgantown on April 6 with Morgantown sweeping the twinbill by scores of 9-2 and 5-4. The 9-2 loss was South's most one-sided setback of the season as all its other defeats have been by either one or two runs.
"The one game we got beat, Morgantown beat us,'' said South coach Matt Null, who is in his sixth year as the Patriots head coach. One of the first things Null did upon taking the reins was establish a middle school baseball program and the 13 seniors who dominate the Patriots roster were the first group to enter it.
South played that doubleheader without the services of shortstop Clay Walters, who is back at his familiar spot. The Patriots are strong up-the-middle with Jacob Wilcox at second base, speedy Braxton Johnson in right field and Jordan Braniff, a standout catcher who is a candidate for postseason honors, behind the plate.
Wes Mitchem, who pitched the Patriots to a 4-2 regional semifinal win at Wheeling Park, on Monday, will move to first base, allowing South to start Brad Brubaker on the mound. The Patriots have enjoyed the luxury of having two ace pitchers in Mitchem and Brubaker, with Null going with whoever has the hottest hand at the time.
Other starters include Dylan Weaver at third base, Tyler Berry in right field and AJ Easter in left field. Plus, Hunter Hamilton, recovering from a broken hand, was released on Tuesday and also is available.
"This team has had a lot of injuries and overcome a lot of adversity,'' Null said. "But that has made us stronger and allowed us to use more players.''
Null says Morgantown is a great deal like South. It is senior dominated, has good pitching, plays solid defense and is hungry to get to the state tournament.
"The longer you go in the tournament, the bigger the game and the better the opponent,'' Null said. "This represents a big opportunity for our community, our school and our program.''
South has one state baseball championship on its resume, in 1975. The Patriots are three victories away from hoisting another title banner.
Null is expecting a large and enthusiastic crowd at Hank Greenburg tonight, as this is the biggest game to ever take place there.