Planning Patriots’ progress

There’s few things more satisfying than developing a plan for success, implementing it and watching it work.

That’s what Parkersburg South baseball coach Matt Null has done since taking over the Patriot baseball program.

Null’s first strategy move was to start a middle school baseball program. This year’s senior class is the first group to come through that program and the results speak for themselves.

South is going to the state baseball tournament for the time in 26 years. The Patriots are two wins away from capturing their first state baseball championship since 1975.

While a great deal of the credit goes to the talented players who make up the Patriots roster, every successful program starts with strong leadership. In other words, the head coach.

Null is a tireless worker who lives, eats, breathes and sleeps South baseball. He’s a former South, Post 15 and Ohio Valley University player who long has been part of the local baseball scene.

Although South doesn’t have an indoor hitting facility like its crosstown rival, the Patriots make due with what they do have. They have turned Hank Greenburg Field into a first-class facility that looks better every time you visit.

It has been a good athletic year on Blizzard Drive. The girls basketball program won its third state championship, the only one captured by any city team thus far. The Patriot boys basketball team qualified for the state tournament. The South wrestling team, while unable to win its fifth straight state championship, placed third. Now, in the final high school sport of the year, South is in the Final Four.

It’s not hard to figure out why. Pitching, lest we ever forget, is 90 percent of baseball. When it comes to that essential commodity, the Patriots have a deadly one-two combination that can knock out any team in seniors Brad Brubaker and Wes Mitchem. Plus, Clayton Cottrille is more than capable of shutting down virtually any foe and closer AJ Easter relishes the pressure of late-inning nailbiters. Whoever is pitching is throwing to one of the state’s top catchers in Jordan Braniff.

Braniff is part of an up-the-middle defense that is second to none and a major reason the Patriots are 26-9 and still playing.

Shortstop Clay Walters and second baseman Jacob Wilcox give the Patriots a standout double-play combination.

South has 13 seniors on its roster. Most have been with the program since the middle school program began. They’ve put in their time, paid their dues and are reaping the rewards.

The great thing about this team is that you never know who is going to step up as so many have done just that at different times during the season.

Although South isn’t a household name at the state baseball tournament, don’t count out the Patriots, who will meet Hedgesville at 5 p.m. on Friday.

As Dan Fogelberg sang, it’s Part of the Plan.