MASON, W.Va. — So nice … they did it twice.
Wahama secured the school’s first-ever back-to-back state championship of any kind this spring after repeating as Class A baseball champions in West Virginia following an epically thrilling 5-4 victory over Wheeling Central Catholic at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston.
The White Falcons (22-11) overcame every drop of adversity throw their way, which included a pair of lightning-filled downpours and a three-run deficit through four innings of play.
WHS, however, managed to plate two runs in the top of the fifth to close to within a run (4-3) before the second rain storm postponed things with one out in the home half of the fifth.
When the Maroon Knights (18-10) returned to the plate following a two-hour delay, they never produced another baserunner as Wahama starter Mason Hicks found his second wind as the senior recorded half of his six strikeouts while retiring the final 10 batters he faced.
Then in the top half of the sixth, the White Falcons made a charge for the history books as Philip Hoffman started the inning with a leadoff single to left.
Hoffman advanced to second on a bobbled third strike, then the junior moved over to third on a two-out error that allowed Jared Oliver to reach safely — giving the guests a pair of runners on the corners.
With seven-hole hitter Dalton Kearns headed to the plate, Oliver intentionally got caught up in a rundown between first and second.
As Wheeling Central reliever Tyler Riedel stepped off the mound and threw to second, Hoffman took off in a full sprint for home. The relay throw home was wide of its target, allowing Hoffman’s head-first slide to tie the game at four.
As the dust settled, Oliver had moved over to third and Kearns finally got his chance at the plate. The sophomore responded with the game-winning RBI after belting a single to the left field gap to plate Oliver, making it a 5-4 contest midway through the sixth.
Neither squad produced a hit over the next inning and a half, with Wheeling Central’s final chance coming up short as Anthony Gentile grounded into a 5-3 putout. WHS senior Ryan Thomas’ throw to classmate Tyler Grimm was on target — allowing the Red and White to begin their triumphant celebration.
Both teams had finished infield practice and were prepared to take the field at 1:30 p.m., but a weather bulletin was issued that called for strong winds, possible hail, heavy rain and lightning within the next 30 minutes. Officials decided to delay the start due to the threat and called for the infield tarp to be rolled out.
After the rains stopped and the field was deemed playable over three hours later, the official first pitch of the Class A title game came at 4:45 p.m. Neither team scored in the opening frame.
Wahama struck first blood in the top of the second as Tyler Grimm led things off with a single to left, then David Hendrick entered as a courtesy runner.
Hendrick advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Hicks, then Dalton Kearns delivered a two-out double to left that plated Hendrick — making it a 1-0 contest.
The Maroon Knights answered in the home half of the third as Kevin Keane and Isaac Rine received back-to-back leadoff walks, then Gentile added a one-out single that loaded the bases.
Hicks uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Keane to score as both Rine and Gentile moved up a base, making it a one-all contest.
Wahama, however, dodged a bullet as Hoffman made a sensational grab at shortstop on a line drive off the bat of Brian Campbell. Hoffman got up and quickly fired back to second baseman Dalton Kearns to double-up Gentile while also ending the threat.
Wheeling Central, however, struck a big blow in the bottom of the fourth as Zach McAbee delivered a one-out single, then Deevon Standwich entered as a courtesy runner.
Standwich advanced to second on a single by Patrick Brown, then both runners moved up a base on a passed ball. Keane followed with a two-out single that plated Standwich, giving the hosts a 2-1 advantage.
Rine followed with an RBI single that allowed Brown to score as Keane also advanced to third. Keane later scored on a balk after initially trying to steal home, giving WCCHS a sizable 4-1 edge through four complete.
The White Falcons responded in the top of the fifth as Oliver led the frame off with a single, then Ricky Kearns legged out an infield hit — putting runners at first and second with two away.
Colton Arrington followed with a full count double to the left-center field gap, allowing both Oliver and Kearns to score as the guests cut the deficit down to a run at 4-3.
The second weather-related postponement occurred just before 6 p.m., and play ultimately resumed just minutes before 8 p.m. Overall, the actual duration of the seven-inning affair lasted only 1:48.
Hicks — who was the winning pitcher for a second straight year in the Class A title game — surrendered four earned runs, seven hits, two walks and hit a batter through four innings of work, then recorded his third strikeout of the game just before the game was suspended in the bottom of the fifth.
After a nearly two-hour layoff, Hicks seemed stronger than ever when he returned to the mound — striking out three of the final eight batters he faced while not allowing a single baserunner.
Wahama — which also won the 1996, 1998 and 2015 Class A crowns in baseball —are now 10-3 all-time at the state tournament, which also includes an eight-game winning streak. WHS has also won eight consecutive sectional championships.
Since the spring of 2013, the White Falcons have claimed four consecutive Section 4, Region 3 titles, three straight TVC Hocking crowns, the program’s second consecutive regional championship, and now they have repeated as Class A state champions.
The White Falcons posted four shutouts in seven postseason games while outscoring opponents by a sizable 49-6 overall margin, which included shutouts in both regional tournaments games against Charleston Catholic (2-0) and Gilmer County (7-0).
WHS — which outscored teams by a 251-96 overall margin in 33 games — also posted a 6-0 shutout win over Calhoun County in the sectional clincher and won 3-0 over Man in the state semifinals. Wahama also scored wins of 11-1 over Calhoun County and 15-1 over Hannan in the sectional tournament.
Besides the four state titles in baseball, Wahama also won the 2012 Class A championship in football. The White Falcons also own a handful of state crowns in both cheerleading and track and field.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.
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