Baseball Takes Runner-up in Conference Championship

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Top row, left to right: Coach Campbell, coach Hughes, Garrett Payne, Luke Tenuta, Chris McGahren, coach Skip Hudgins, coach Freeland. Lucas Adam, Conner Dillard, Sam James, Ryan Sukovich, Jack Masloff, Chase Campbell, Tommy Mangrum, manager Kevin Sukovich. Manager Jackson Campbell, Tyler Jones, Derek Domecq, Wyatt Hull, Brendan Campbell, Matt Mandell, Mitchell Morris. Photo: TSS Photography.

Going into the May 26 Conference 29 finals against Turner Ashby, the WAHS baseball team was 16-4 on the season and, despite experiencing some tough injuries to two key pitchers during the tournament, had logged what coach Skip Hudgins called a good, solid season. “We went into the season with the stated goal of improving as men and ballplayers,” he said, “and these guys definitely went above and beyond in that regard.”

Hudgins knew he had a strong bullpen, but the team’s offensive abilities had been a point of concern. “We started off not swinging the bats well at all, but toward the end of the year we heated up and it became a real strength,” he said. Indeed, after scoring just 41 runs in its first ten games, the team tallied more than 70 in its last ten, averaging around seven a game.

In addition to assuming behind-the-plate duties in every game of the season, leading the offensive pack was senior captain, catcher Ryan Suckovich. “He was our strongest hitter and had 13 doubles, three triples, two homeruns, 18 RBIs, and a batting average of .393,” said Hudgins. “Ryan has been a strong player since he took the starting catcher job a quarter way into his sophomore year and has held it ever since. He’s done a tremendous job, and had a really outstanding senior season. You couldn’t ask for a better young man.”

Other key offensive players were senior captain and second baseman Matt Mandell, who batted .309 on the year, and shortstop Wyatt Hull. “Wyatt’s a sophomore who’s been spectacular in field and he became a real offensive asset as we moved deeper into the season,” said Hudgins. After assuming the lead-off role, Hull finished the year leading the team in on-base percentage (.480) and stolen bases, and batted .278.

Defensively, the squad relied on its pitchers. The Warriors’ top four hurlers pitched all but four of the team’s 133 total innings on the season. Of those 133, going into the conference championship game, junior star Derek Domecq had pitched 56—twice as many as anyone else. “He’s been an absolute workhorse for us on the mound,” said Hudgins. “We’ve been able to trot him out once a week and he’s been spectacular.” Entering the regional tournament, Domecq was 7-1 and had an ERA of 1.00. He pitched five complete games and had two shutouts on the season. “One particularly impressive stat is that he’s struck out 85 batters while walking just eight,” added Hudgins, who said Domecq relies mainly on a well-placed fastball, but has a strong curve as well. Meanwhile, from the batters’ box, he hit .345 on the year, logging 20 hits and 12 RBIs.

Freshman Garrett Payne had a 1.95 ERA and a 3-0 record on the season; junior Luke Tenuda went 6-3; and sophomore Jackie Masloff netted 2 saves with an ERA of 0.36.

With Tenuda and Masloff downed by injuries, looking ahead to the regional tournament left Hudgins shrugging. “Over the last half of the season we turned into a very good high school baseball team,” he reflected. “Obviously these injuries put us behind the eight-ball—but when people get hurt in sports nobody feels sorry for your team; the next in line just has to step up. So, maybe someone will come off the bench and we’ll pull it off, you never know.”

Hudgins said the year was worth celebrating. “This is a really special group of kids in this senior class,” he said. “These guys have done a good job in our program since the ninth grade. They have been mainstays. They’ll all definitely be missed.”

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