By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Don’t expect Ryan Weatherholtz to be bothered by a bunch of Marauders.
Not with the bunch of Mountain Lions with bats that he has on his side of the diamond.
“If I can focus on throwing scoreless innings, that is the main thing I have got to worry about is just keeping my team in it so they can score runs,” Weatherholtz said. “I have confidence we can do that.”
Weatherholtz, the junior ace of the Concord (38-16) pitching staff, will take the mound on Thursday when the Mountain Lions face Millersville (36-18) in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional tournament in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Concord head coach Andrew Wright is comfortable with giving Weatherholtz the ball. He did the same as a freshman in 2011, and he did just fine.
“That is why he gets the ball, he has been getting the ball for us any time there is a big game since he was a freshman,” Wright said. “Two years ago he pitched against this same team we are going to face on Thursday and it was a 3-1 game.
“That said a lot about him as a freshman to go out and pitch that way.”
Concord is one of six teams that will play at turf-filled Gene Hooks Stadium, the home diamond for Wake Forest of the ACC. Even though the Mountain Lions are seeded sixth out of six teams, Weatherholtz is confident that Concord can win four games and advance to the Division II National Championships on May 25-June 1 in Cary, N.C.
“That is OK, we will take the underdog role, we will just roll with that,” Weatherholtz said. “We will fly under the radar a little bit and hopefully go down there and beat some quality teams.
“That is OK, we will just go down there and play clean baseball and we will see what happens. That is pretty much all we can do.”
Weatherholtz has been able to shut down teams for three seasons, such as in the WVIAC tournament opener. He was locked in a scoreless tie with West Liberty’s Dylan Grosul, with the Mountain Lions finally pushing across a run in the eighth and four more in the ninth.
His plan worked.
“The main thing is just to hold them down as much as I can to get my team into it,” Weatherholtz said. “That was pretty much the whole plan the whole season was hold them down enough so my team can score, that is the main idea.”
Weatherholtz wasn’t highly recruited out of Osbourn High School in Manassas, Va., but found a home at Concord, and quickly earned the trust of Wright.
“I came here and Coach Wright gave me a chance,” he said. “Ever since then I have just hammered the strike zone and do what I can to get wins.”
He’s done it well. Weatherholtz is 4-1 this season with a 3.32 earned run average. He has struck out 37 in 57 innings, and has been a part of two WVIAC championships in the last three seasons.
Concord, which is 1-8 in four previous regional appearances — defeating Winston-Salem State three years ago — will be in the same regional as fellow WVIAC foe Seton Hill (39-15), along with Winston-Salem State (38-11), East Stroudsburg (33-16) and Shippensburg (28-20).
“We get free baseball so we are all excited about that,” Weatherholtz said. “It is a great opportunity for our team to go down there and play against some of the best teams in the region.”
Millersville, which won the Atlantic Regional crown in 2011 and 1998, is the top seed, having won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East Division title before losing to East Stroudsburg in the tournament semifinals.
“I actually pitched against Millersville my freshman year,” Weatherholtz said. “We came up a little short, but we are all excited to go back down there and play them again.”
The Marauders are led at the plate by Zach Stone (.409), who is one of five starters batting at least .322. It is pitching where Millersville is stout, led Chris Murphy (12-1, 2.08 ERA, 93 Ks in 95 1/3 innings), who is a semifinalist for the Tino Martinez Award, given to the best player in Division II.
There is also Tim Mayza (10-3, 1.28 ERA, 84 Ks in 91 2/3 innings) and closer Adam Zipko (2-2, 1.75, 7 saves).
No wonder Weatherholtz knows he will have to be on his game to keep his Mountain Lions close until they can produce much runs, much like he did in the WVIAC opener against West Liberty.
“I am going to start off against Millersville,” Weatherholtz said. “I have confidence our team is going to go down there and hit. I will just try to go down there and pitch the best I can and hopefully we come out with a win.”
Concord, which has won eight straight games, not only averages 9.5 runs per game, but the defense has also been stingy, which is why Weatherholtz doesn’t have to depend on strikeouts to be successful.
“It is a big contributing factor in our team playing good,” he said. “I have confidence in going out there and throwing the ball over the plate and they just make plays for me. It is a big confidence when you are pitching.”
One of the difficulties of being a starting pitcher is that once Weatherholtz finishes up on Thursday, he might not pitch again. He was ready if needed in the WVIAC championship game, but is part of a staff in which the top seven Concord hurlers are a combined 34-11 this season.
“I was ready to pitch in the championship game if they needed me, but we have so many quality guys that come in and you don’t need me anymore,” Weatherholtz said. “It is kind of hard to just sit back and watch, but I am around these guys all the time and I will let them take over the roles for me.
“It is all about winning, it doesn’t matter who is on the field, as long as we win.”
That is the plan.
“We have to play clean baseball,” Weatherholtz said. “We have to pitch, play defense and hit. If we do all those three things we all have confidence that we can win.”
—Contact Brian Woodson at