By Rich Stevens
Charleston Daily Mail
Herbert Hoover junior Corey Bird made the Huskies go.
When he went, so did they — all the way to the state tournament.
That’s why the hard-nosed center fielder captains the 2012 Class AA all-state first team.
Senior pitcher Travis McKinney from state champion Wyoming East, and Oak Hill sophomore infielder Wyatt Adkins are also on the first team, as voted on by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
McKinney moved to the first team after earning second-team accolades in 2011. He was 9-3 with a 2.16 earned run average and 109 strikeouts and 12 walks in 78 innings pitched.
In the AA state semifinal against Liberty Harrison, McKinney pitched a four-hit complete game, striking out 12 Mountaineers.
Adkins batted .504 with 17 stolen bases for Oak Hill (21-10). He homered, doubled and drove in two runs in the Red Devils’ season-ending 10-6 loss to Shady Spring in the sectionals.
A symbol of Bird’s grittiness was the sight of the speedy leadoff hitter, face askew, chugging toward third for a two-run triple and scoring on an overthrow against Wayne in the Region 4 championship game — a play that propelled Hoover to the state tournament for the second time in the last five seasons.
“When there are runners on base, I try to be as productive as possible,” said Bird, who finished with 31 RBI from the leadoff spot. “Whether it’s moving them over, or hitting a ball in the gap or down the line to score them. I try to be as smart as possible, swing only at strikes. That’s been my biggest thing and put the barrel on the bat.”
Bird has struck out only once this season. That came in a May 2 defeat to Point Pleasant, the team the Huskies defeated 7-1 in the Class AA state semifinals. He has hit safety in all but four games this season and had 20 multiple-hit games, including seven in the last nine contests.
He batted .483 with 27 walks and 40 stolen bases, with four of those coming in Hoover’s 1-0 Class AA state championship game loss to Wyoming East. Bird was thrown out for only the third time this season when Warriors catcher Zack Whitten caught him stealing in the first inning. Bird then stole four bases on the East catcher, including third base.
Just how important was Bird to Hoover’s success? He failed to score a run in seven games of Hoover’s 35 games this season, including the state championship, and the Huskies are 2-5 in those contests.
Bird, a second-team selection last year, headlines an all-state first team that includes only one first-team repeat choice from 2011 — Wayne outfielder Tyler Adkins.
Adkins led Wayne to the Region 4 championship game against Hoover, batting .489 with 37 RBI, four home runs and 11 doubles.
First-team pick and Magnolia senior utility player Kyle Elliott (.435, 33 RBI; 5-3, 2.04 ERA, 62 K, 58 1/3 IP) was a second-team choice as a junior, as was Point Pleasant senior Eric Roberts (.473, 7 HR, 39 RBI, walked 26 times).
Liberty Harrison senior catcher Chase Alonso helped the 10-21 Mountaineers reach the state tournament for the first time since losing in the 2006 state title game. Alonso, who showed off his defensive skills in Liberty’s 5-1 state semifinal loss to Wyoming East this season, batted .446 with 26 RBI. His ability to block pitches helped keep Liberty close to the Warriors.
Represented on the first team with two players were Ritchie County, Wayne and Magnolia. The Rebels, who won 24 games this season, were represented by senior infielder Reno Jackson (.516, 25 RBI, 17 doubles, 62 runs) and utility player and senior Ryder Bolin (.514, 55 RBI, 9 doubles). In addition to Adkins, the Pioneers placed senior infielder Ryan Harless (.383) on the first team. Joining teammate Elliott on the first team for Magnolia was junior outfielder Ryan Walton (.456, 14 stolen bases).
Another underclassman on the first team is Berkeley Springs junior pitcher Tyler Holt. Holt was 7-1 with a 1.43 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings.
Jordan Banks, who helped Chapmanville win the Class AA state title in 2011, batted .490 with three home runs and 27 RBI. As a pitcher he was 5-3 with a 1.50 ERA.
River View pitcher Jacob Muncy earned first-team honors with a 6-1 record, 0.49 ERA and 137 strikeouts in 70 1/3 innings.
Senior Andy Green of Philip Barbour was chosen as an infielder. He batted .403 with seven doubles and 15 stolen bases.
Rounding out the list of players voted as the best 16 in Class AA was Oak Glen utility player Steven Barr. Barr batted .628 with 46 RBI and 16 doubles, as well as finishing with a 5-3 pitching record with a 2.21 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 57 innings.
In addition to Adkins, other Oak Hill players honored were Chris Hysell (special mention) and Wes Stowers (honorable mention).