Musselman adds depth to strong early postseason tilt
SHENANDOAH JUNCTION – When the postseason high school baseball tournament begins next week, Jefferson County figures to be well represented.
At 20-4, Jefferson is tied for No. 2 in the state in Class AAA, while county-rival Washington has won six consecutive games and garnered interest among the other schools receiving votes for West Virginia’s large-school top-10.
The Patriots (15-4) are scheduled to host Musselman on Monday in Charles Town in the opener of the sectional tournament, with the loser having to travel to top-seeded Jefferson the following night.
The sectional tournament is double elimination with the champion earning a berth in the regional semifinal against the opposite sectional represented by fellow Eastern Panhandle Athletic Conference rivals Hedgesville, Spring Mills and Martinsburg.
The winner of the single-elimination regional semifinal advances to face the winner of Hampshire, Buckhannon-Upshur, Elkins and Lewis County. The regional champion advances to the state Class AAA tournament in Charleston.
Martinsburg (2009), Jefferson (2011) and defending champion Hedgesville (2013) each has won recent state Class AAA titles.
“This is a tough area,” said Washington coach Mark Hash. “Always has been. You’re always battling up here. There’s some good teams down in the southern part of the state, but we’re kind of partial to where we’re at.”
Washington has defeated Musselman (15-9) twice this season, including 10-0 when senior pitcher Jared Silva threw his second consecutive no-hitter on April 24 in Charles Town.
Jefferson pounded Musselman, 18-2, on April 2 in Inwood during the only game this season between the programs. The Applemen and the Cougars are scheduled to play their second regular season game later this week.
However, Musselman has won five of its last eight games and the Applemen make the local sectional appear far more competitive than the opposing bracket.
“I think our section is pretty competitive,” said Jefferson coach John Lowery. “I think any of the three teams, particularly Washington, are pretty close. Just a break here or there has kind of separated things.
Musselman maybe seems to be a little more inconsistent, but they are still very capable. They have three quality pitchers and they score a lot of runs at times. There’s not going to be an easy out in our sectional.”
At 14-7, Hedgesville looks a strong favorite in the opposite bracket against Spring Mills (8-17) and Martinsburg (3-20), which have both largely struggled.
With only two seniors on the roster, including starting catcher Garrett Everton, Jefferson has looked to several underclassmen to provide both productivity and depth.
The pitching staff has been led by junior Andy Disque as well as freshmen Dylan Carroll, Austin Bulman and Austin Cross, who have combined to throw 105.2 innings of the total 157.2 pitched this season. The three freshmen have combined for an 11-2 record, including a 5-0 mark by Bulman.
At the plate, Everton leads off for a lineup that features seven regular starters who are batting at least .306. Junior second baseman Andrew King leads the Cougars with a .453 batting average, while sophomore shortstop Paul Witt is not far behind at .434.
Jefferson has enjoyed winning streaks of six and 11 games this season.
“I think we’re playing pretty consistent right now,” Lowery said. “I know baseball’s a grind, day in and day out, but if they want to be a championship team they have to be able to withstand that grind.”
For Washington, Silva leads a pitching staff that has allowed less than one earned run a game through 114 innings pitched.
Silva, a Division I college baseball signee headed to Virginia Military Institute next fall, is 4-1 and has an impressive 45-6 strikeout to walk ratio through 24 innings.
Juniors Mark McKee, Ryan French, Trevor Pansch and Zac Burch augment a group on the mound that has surrendered just 12 earned runs in 114 innings, while striking out 149 opposing batters.
At the plate, Silva, who plays first base when not pitching, has added to his repertoire by hitting .455.
Sophomore infielder Robert Cross (.468), senior outfielder Bryan Bayliss (.457) and junior outfielder Corey Lewis (.364) head a unit that is batting .339 as a team.
“I’ve been real pleased with our pitching staff,” Hash said. “But we’ve got to be more consistent at the plate. When we go back and look at the games that we’ve lost, we haven’t been very good at the plate. We can be better at the plate and, at times, we can be better in the field.”