TOP 10 Sports of 2012

Shepherd, WVU conference titles among highlights

Five of the Top 10 sports stories for Jefferson County (Shepherd University) and West Virginia University include conference championships, individual honors, or a long-time coach leaving for another similar position.

The 2012 West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference football championship was again Shepherd’s when the Monte Cater-coached Rams had a 7-1 league record to edge three schools that finished with 6-2 marks.

An 8-2 overall record gave the Rams still another berth in the NCAA Division II football playoffs. Only six teams qualified from Super Region One. Shepherd lost in its first-round game at Indiana (Pa.).

Also winning a WVIAC championship was Shepherd’s baseball nine when the last team coached by Wayne Riser grabbed the league’s tournament title from seven others in the event staged in Johnstown, Pa.

Qualifying for the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional in West Lawn, Pa., the Rams were matched against eventual national champion West Chester in the first round and were beaten, 4-0.

Two other Top 10 stories concerned Shepherd’s baseball team.

Senior first baseman/designated hitter Nathan Minnich hovered near the .500 mark as a hitter through the whole of the regular season. Minnich also wiped out most of the career batting marks in the Shepherd record books.

For his record-setting home run, RBIs, total bases, on-base percentage, and other single-season and career records he hoarded, Minnich was named a first-team All America.

Topping even the All-America acknowledgement, Minnich was selected as the NCAA Division II national player of the year and received the Tino Martinez Award, emblematic of being the best player in the Division II ranks.

The last story concerning Shepherd baseball was the resignation of Riser after more than 20 years as the head coach at the school. Shepherd had won conference championships in 2004, 2009, and 2012 with Riser as its coach.

The Shepherd graduate took the head coaching position at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va.

A fifth story with Shepherd implications came when the school made the decision to leave the WVIAC and join a just-formed league called the Mountain East Conference.

Also a NCAA Division II league, the Mountain East Conference has many of the same WVIAC schools the Rams have faced for decades. The WVIAC was completely dissolved by the defections of nearly all its previous members.

Athletics and team championships will be in place when the Mountain East opens its doors for the 2013-14 school term.

A single story concerning Jefferson High made the list of Top 10 stories. The Cougars and Coach Craig Hunter won a third straight boys track and field state championship.

Jefferson wrangled points from its long list of sprinters, sprint relays, hurdlers, middle distance contingent, and consistent distance men and wrapped up a third straight state title at Laidley Field in Charleston. The state championship followed a third consecutive Regional championship as well.

West Virginia’s 70-33 football win over Clemson in January’s Orange Bowl was a solid selection to the Top 10 list. After winning its last three games of the Big East regular season schedule, the Mountaineers won a tiebreaker with two other teams and received the BCS bid to the Orange Bowl against the ACC champion Tigers.

The other important story with WVU implications was the athletic department’s decision to leave the Big East for the Big 12 Conference.

West Virginia played a Big 12 football schedule in 2012, finishing with a 4-5 league record, a 7-5 overall regular season record, and accepted a bid from the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in New York.

The Mountaineers open an 18-game Big 12 basketball schedule on Saturday at the Coliseum against Oklahoma.

This summer, Jefferson County will have college baseball in Shenandoah Junction in the form of the newly-minted Charles Town Cannons of the long-established Valley Baseball League.

Luray moved its non-profit franchise to Jefferson County and the Cannons will play half of their 44-game schedule at Jefferson High and its Sager Field.

The Valley Baseball League has 12 teams and is divided into a North Division and a South Division with Charles Town playing in the North Division.

Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races was able to move its signature race, the Charles Town Classic, to the Grade II stakes level for the first time. Just about 10 days ago, the race track announced that the “Classic” will boost its purse structure to $1.5 million with the winner earning a $1 million pay day. Some of the nation’s top-money winning thoroughbreds are almost guaranteed to comprise the field for the 2013 “Classic” in April.

The 2013 sports calendar already has a new feel about it as the Mountaineers face a first-ever Big 12 basketball schedule and Shepherd will begin its first football season in the 12-school Mountain East Conference.

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