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Baseball brings spring to Pocahontas County

PCHS second baseman Wes Felton tags out a runner in a game against Richwood on May 5, 2013. Felton and fellow seniors Judd Walther,
PCHS second baseman Wes Felton tags out a runner in a game against Richwood on May 5, 2013. Felton and fellow seniors Judd Walther, Brandon Hammons and Andrew Morrison lead the Warriors into battle at Pendleton County on Thursday in the season opener.

There’s something magical about baseball. This year, baseball delivers us from one of the coldest winters on record. The Pocahontas County High School Warriors baseball team plays its opener on Thursday at Pendleton County. The opener coincides with the first solid stretch of bona fide springtime weather that we’ve waited for so long. Say goodbye to Old Man Winter and say hello to a new baseball season, when hope springs eternal in Pocahontas County and across the USA.

New Warriors head coach Richard Walther won’t be relying on magic to win games this season. He’s relying on a bullpen full of experienced ace pitchers and improved batting to battle Potomac Valley Conference rivals, including (with last season’s records) East Hardy (22-13), Pendleton County (20-12) and Tygarts Valley (14-10).

Walther expects great things from his four seniors.

“Wesley Felton will play shortstop and he may catch and pitch a little bit this year,” said the coach. “We’ve got Judd Walther and he’ll play third base, first base and pitch. Andrew Morrison – he’ll pitch and play probably left field. Brandon Hammons will play third base and pitch.”

The coach described the strength of his senior class.

“Wesley can play anyplace on the field,” he said. “He’s the most all-around baseball knowledgeable kid on the team. He knows situations, he knows what to call, and he’ll be making most of the calls out on the field. He’s just Mr. Baseball as far as this team is concerned.”

“Judd’s strength is probably his bat. If we can keep him from trying to kill the ball, he usually knocks it out of the park. Last year, he had a little trouble getting started, but he got the bugs worked out of him and he was really knocking the ball. He hit three home runs at Union-Grant last year, one of which went foul but they were completely out of the park and into the trees.”

“Andrew is extremely fast. He can play outfield really well. He’s got a heck of an arm and he’ll be pitching, probably more than he’s playing outfield. He’s probably the smoothest, as far as his technique and release, of any kid I’ve ever seen. He’s long-armed, long-legged and when he comes off that mound, he’s picture perfect.”

“Brandon’s probably the best pitcher I’ve got. He can throw several different pitches. He’s got the speed and he’s got a beautiful release. Some colleges have already looked at him. He plays baseball year-round, he and Wesley both play in a league all summer long. He knows the game and knows the situation and he’s just another asset out on the field, working out plays and whatever has to take place out there.”

Walther will rely on several motivated underclassmen to round out his team.

“Braxton Ryder, a sophomore pitcher, looks like Andrew Morrison on his release,” he said. “Just really smooth, really stretches out when he pitches. He needs some development to build his arm up, so he’ll be pitching three and four inning stretches. He’s an all-around good baseball player. He’ll be playing shortstop. He’s on the caliber of Wes and Brandon and Judd and he’s fast.”

“Justin Hendrik is a freshman pitcher and he plays some first base. He’ll probably be starting in the outfield because of his ability to throw so far. He can peg second base from left field like it’s not even there. But he’ll be on the mound as well, and he’ll be developing as a pitcher all season.”

“Morgan Mason, a freshman, will probably be starting as catcher. He’s good with passed balls and his arm is strong. He’s got a ways to go but hopefully, by sectional time, he’ll be where I need him to be. We’ve been playing down here in the slop and I call him “Pigpen” because when he gets done he’s mud from head to toe. He’ll do whatever it takes to stop that ball from getting past him.”

“Freshman Logan Davis is going to start at center field. He’s fast as lightning. He’s got one heck of a long arm. He would make a good shortstop but he can’t throw the ball short. He’ll just knock you down with it. He’s got plenty of control from center field. He can hit second base deep from center field. He will not let the ball hit the ground. He’s just an awesome athlete.”

The coach isn’t worried about the team anymore.

“These are all good kids,” he said. “The next four years, these kids will just get better. I was a little worried early in the season because I had so many freshmen and not so many upperclassmen. But these kids, every one of them can fill a position somewhere on the field.”

First pitch in the Warriors’ opener at Pendleton County on Thursday is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Walther thinks the two teams will meet again in the playoffs.

“We’ll probably end up in the sectionals with Pendleton County,” he said. “We were pretty competitive with them last year. It will come down to us and them and I think we’ve got a good chance at going to regionals.”

As a youngster, Walther played baseball in Clarksburg before his family returned to Pocahontas County.

“When I moved back here, we didn’t have baseball,” he said. “It killed me. In my junior year, we tried to get baseball started here and they just didn’t want to hear it. But I’ve coached four Little League teams here in the county at different times. I actually have won two of the county championships.”

Felton has been a team leader in his three previous years on the diamond for PCHS.

“I think we’re a pretty young team, all around,” he said. “But the younger kids are very talented. As long as we come together, we’ll do alright.”

The Warriors play their first home game against Meadow Bridge on April 1 at 4:30 p.m. Forget your umbrella. This team is bringing sunny skies to Pocahontas County.

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