Showdown for South, PHS

PARKERSBURG-Veteran Parkersburg South head baseball coach Matt Null is used to seeing his Patriots (20-8) take on crosstown rival Parkersburg at least twice every spring.

But normally that second meeting doesn’t occur during the opening round of the Class AAA sectionals.

“When it comes to these two teams, the regular season doesn’t really mean that much,” said Null. “If you look at our lineup then and now, we didn’t have our shortstop or our third baseman and the guy we had in left field (Hunter Hamilton) is out with a broken wrist.”

The Big Reds of veteran head coach Alan Burns won that only meeting of the season by a 9-8 score and will play host to the best-of-three series beginning tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Bennett Stump Field. Game two moves to the Patriots’ home site at Hank Greenburg Field with game three, if necessary, taking place back at City Park.

“They (PHS) beat us during the regular season so our kids are looking forward to playing them,” added Null. “Obviously, this being the first game adds some importance since you want to get that first win just in case weather takes over and forces it (the sectional) into a single-elimination format.”

With that in mind Null will send W.Va. Wesleyan recruit Brad Brubaker to the mound. The senior posted a 2.30 earned run average on the season, striking out 36 batters in 41 innings of work. But the Patriots have a plethora of pitching if needed as Null can call upon the services of Clayton Cottrille (1.75 ERA, 28 strikeouts), Wes Mitchem (1.98 ERA), A.J. Easter (1.93 ERA, 30 Ks) and Jacob Braniff (2.46 ERA, 39 Ks).

“We go with Brad (Brubaker),” said the Patriots skipper. “If he gets in trouble then we will go to a committee of pitchers. If the game is close at the end then we will bring in A.J. (Easter).”

Parkersburg (9-10) will likely counter with either Anthony Kist (2.86 ERA), Jeff Davis (42 Ks) or Caleb Thrash (38 Ks).

“We’re not totally sure about who we’ll start,” said Burns. “They are all about the same number-wise. What will determine who we pitch will be the lineup that will make us the best defensively.”

Whoever is on the mound for either team will face an opposing lineup that include several top notch hitters.

Designated hitter Levi Casto leads the Big Reds at the plate with a .466 average followed by Logan Dudley (.426), Kyle Foster (.407), Damon Ribeiro (.371), and Davis (.344). Parkersburg South will counter with a lineup that includes Braxton Johnson (.425), Tre Jackson (.393), Brubaker (.393), Jordan Braniff (.363), Tyler Berry (.354), Clay Walters (.354), Dylan Weaver (.353) and Jacob Wilcox (.348).

“Really, our lineup has changed several times,” said Null. “Especially, our five through nine hitters. You can basically flip a coin with them. What we have to do is try to find that guy that is hot right now and get him in there.”

Jackson leads the Patriots with 34 runs-batted-in followed by Jordan Braniff (29), Wilcox (21), and Berry (17) while the top run producer for the Big Reds has been Davis with 17 RBIs followed by Thrash and Casto with 15 apiece and Lucas Goodwin with 14.

“We’re excited,” said Null. “Our kids understand the importance of this first game and I think we will be ready to play.”