Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

May 22, 2013

Panthers to take on Patriots for trip to state tournament

By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

GARDNER — PikeView baseball is in uncharted territory. Independence stands in the way.

“My kids are hungry too,” PikeView baseball coach Josh Wyatt said. “We have done a lot of firsts this year. They have been told by a lot of people where PikeView has never been and they are hungry to change that and try to get to the next level.”

PikeView (23-10) will visit Independence (18-8) tonight for the Region 3 championship game, with the winner claiming a spot in the Class AA state tournament next weekend.

While the Patriots last reached Charleston in 2009, the Panthers will try to claim its first regional title — and first state tourney appearance — in school history.

“I can sit here and talk to you all night because I believe a lack of sleep will be in order for me tonight,” said Wyatt, who played at PikeView and Concord, and was part of a team at PikeView that lost in regional play to eventual state runner-up Summers County in 2002. “We are anxious to try and get to that next level and we are hungry.

“The boys understand we have won a lot of ball games, but nobody remembers how many games you win, they remember how far you got.”

PikeView, which has already set a school record for wins, defeated Mount View 13-2 on Tuesday to advance to play the Patriots, which continued its recent offensive explosion in upsetting defending state champion Wyoming East 7-5.

While the Panthers have won five straight, and seven of its nine games, while claiming the Section 4 title for a second time in three years, Independence has won three in a row, eight of its last nine, and have scored  96 runs in those eight wins, including 16, 15, 14 (twice), 12 and 10.

PikeView will send senior Kevin Cottle (9-2, 2.39 ERA, 86 K’s) to the mound against the Scott Cuthbert-coached Patriots, who had 10 hits against the Warriors, including six for extra bases, with home runs coming from Drew D’Angelo and Andrew Hughart. Wyatt Adkins had a triple and double for Independence, while Hughart had a double and drove in four runs.

“Cottle is our ace in this situation,” said Wyatt, who can also call upon Austin Cordell (7-3, 2.10, 77 K’s), who continued his stellar season in the win against Mount View, along with Zach Meadows (2-3, 4.45). “He is a senior, and he definitely wants the ball in this hands. He is looking forward to it, I can tell you that.”

PikeView will depend on a stingy defense, led by the strong arm of junior Hunter Moses behind the plate.

“Everybody has had the same statement about them, they are peaking at the right time and they put the bat on the ball,” Wyatt said. “I think it is a team that isn’t worried about striking out much.

“Kevin is a pitcher. He can rare back and throw it when he needs to, but he has one of the best defenses in the state right now and he pitches to that. He is very good with location and uses the guys behind him.

“We are going to need that. I think 1 through 9 they are going to hit the ball hard. We are going to have to field it and make the plays that are given to us and try to scatter their hits.”

PikeView, which won just nine games in 2011 — including the sectional title — and 13 last year, is composed of just one senior, with one  sophomore and three freshmen in the starting lineup.

“We may be young this year, but we are full of baseball knowledge,” said Wyatt, who comes from a family of coaches, including his father, who is currently the football coach at PikeView, and sister, Tracy Raban, who is the girls basketball coach at Graham. “I don’t look at freshman, sophomore, junior and senior, we look at where you are baseball-wise.

“I think that is why we have underclassmen here who are live for and love the game and that definitely makes it easier to turn a program around when you have kids that share your passion and want to see PikeView play well.”

There aren’t many holes in the PikeView lineup. In fact, there might not be any when the lowest batting mark belongs to Keian Lee at .292. In Wyatt’s three seasons with the Panthers, the team batting average has risen from .240 to .252 and this season at .312.

Among the numbers, which Wyatt said are ‘true stats’, include Cordell (.354, 37 runs, 24 RBI, 13 stolen bases , 7 2b), Hunter Moses (.330, 19 RBI, 8 2b), Cottle (.322, 28 RBI) and Meadows (.300, 9 2b, 28 RBI). The other starters include Jordan Hardin (.314, 27 runs), Jon Clark (.298), Carter Shrewsbury (.315) and Ryan Roberts (.309).

Wyatt said those numbers could be even better if not for the 0-4 mark at Myrtle Beach in April, but that annual trip has been a key part of PikeView’s progression as a program.

“Take the beach out of it and we are probably up around .340,” Wyatt said. “That beach trip is rough, but it definitely teaches us a lot of things and we always come back playing better baseball from it.

“It is hard on stats and the win-loss column, but we have definitely learn from it and it has made ourselves better.”

It has also helped take PikeView to the brink of a berth in the Class AA state tournament. First pitch tonight in Coal City is slated for 6:30 p.m.

“You don’t have any weak teams that make it to the regional championship,” Wyatt said. “It is the final eight teams in the states and I think we are going to need all the facets of the game working tomorrow.

“We can’t have just part of the lineup win the game for us, we have to get it from 1 through 9, field the ball and play defense behind Kevin. At this point the team who gets the lucky hops and those little seeing-eye singles and bloop hits, those are the ones that help out as well.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

at bwoodson@bdtonline.com