CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Wahama’s run to a Class A state title inside Appalachian Power Park was derailed by Charleston Catholic and first-year head coach Will Bobinger.
Although the White Falcons of skipper Billy Zuspan had to settle for runner-up honors, senior catcher Ethyn Barnitz was named captain of the Class A all-state first team as selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
Barnitz, who drew 28 walks and finished with a .629 on-base percentage, was one of four repeat honorees on the first team.
“That definitely is a great honor for our team and program,” admitted coach Zuspan, who watched his backstop hit .391 with seven doubles, a triple, seven home runs and 30 runs-batted-in. “We had a great season, largely in part because of Barnitz, but also Aaron Henry and Logan Roach, who had great seasons.”
Tyler Consolidated junior Ty Walton, who became the first Silver Knight to earn Little Kanawha Conference Player of the Year honors, repeated. The left-hander finished 8-2 with a 1.04 earned run average. He had 107 strikeouts in 53 2-3 innings while allowing just 16 hits and a .088 opponents’ batting average.
Buffalo junior infielder Caleb Nutter (.500 Avg., 15 2Bs, 29 RBIs) and Sherman senior Josh Jenkins, a utility pick, were the other repeat selections. Jenkins not only posted a 9-2 record with a 3.67 ERA to go with 130 strikeouts in 68 2-3 frames, but he batted .537 with six doubles, 10 home runs, 39 RBIs and a baker’s dozen steals.
Jonah DiCocco was the lone freshman to make the first team.
“He was a joy to coach, very focused, a great student of the game,” stated Bobinger, who watched DiCocco pitch a complete game against Williamstown in the state semifinals.
“We knew whenever he took the mound, we had a very good chance of getting a victory. Offensively, we had him in the three or four hole all year and counted on him to be able to put the ball in play with hard contact.”
DiCocco, who was joined as a first team pitcher by Wahama sophomore Bryce Zuspan, posted a 1.81 ERA, was 8-1 and fanned 123 in 62 innings for the Irish while allowing a .140 opponents’ batting average. Zuspan went 11-1 with a 1.80 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 62 1-3 innings.
Two of the three first team outfield selections went to players who reached the state tournament — Moorefield senior Karson Reed and Williamstown junior Harbor Haught, who stole 29 bases, averaged .443 with four doubles and 27 RBIs. The Yellow Jacket Reed had seven doubles, nine stolen bases, 26 RBIs and a .430 average. Midland Trail senior Griffen Boggs, who hit .585 with a 1.535 OPS as well as 32 RBIs and 17 steals, was the other first team outfielder.
Reece Patterson, a junior from Greater Beckley Christian, joined Barnitz at catcher after batting .435 with 35 steals and 22 RBIs.
Joining Nutter in the infield were Madonna senior Matt Amaismeier (.485 AVG, 13-0-4, 40 RBIs, 15 stolen bases), Gilmer County junior Caden Hall (.507 AVG, 8-3-6, 27 RBIs, 36 SBs) and Williamstown sophomore Maxwell Molessa (.418 AVG, 12-9-1, 17 RBIs, 27 SBs).
The other two utility spots on the first team went to a pair of seniors in Man’s Preston Blankenship (two wins, 41 Ks, .458 AVG, two HRs, 45 RBIs) and Greenbrier West’s Chase McClung. The Cavalier went 4-1 with a 1.33 ERA and 39 strikeouts and allowed a .165 batting average against. Along with hitting five doubles, a triple and four round-trippers, McClung averaged .476, drove in 30 runs and swiped 26 bases.
Younger brother Braydon McClung, a sophomore at Greenbrier West, was chosen captain of the all-state second team.
McClung was joined in the infield by Notre Dame’s Gene Hutchinson, Man’s Caleb Blevins and Ritchie County’s Quentin Owens.
Henry of Wahama, Cameron’s Coy Angel and Man’s Bo Thompson were the pitchers on the second team. Ravenswood’s Anthony Anglin and Greenbrier West’s Dale Boone nabbed the catcher spots.
A trio of outfielders — the White Falcon Roach, Tyler Consolidated’s Jayden Helmick and Sherman’s Cole Whitehead — completed the rest of the second unit along with utility selections Michael Ferrell of Charleston Catholic, Ben Foster of Wheeling Central and Sherman’s Holden Allen.
Jay W. Bennett is a sports writer for the Parkersburg News and Sentinel and provided this story on behalf of the WVSWA.