A roller-coaster baseball season continues this week for the Oak Hill Red Devils.
And, entering Class AAA Region 3 tournament action Monday at St. Albans, the Red Devils find themselves two wins away from a state tournament berth. The path to the four-team state event won't be a cakewalk, though.
"St. Albans is a well-coached and fundamentally sound team," said Oak Hill head coach Matt Boyd. "They do not beat themselves.
"You don't win two out of the last three state championships and not have a great program."
Zane Wolfe, a rising senior shortstop/pitcher for Oak Hill, says the 2021 season "has been a journey" for him and his teammates. "It's definitely been a crazy year," Wolfe said. There have been "a lot of ups and downs," but "as a team, we've always felt confident, even after losing seven straight at the end of the regular season."
The players continued to have faith they could still finish the campaign on a strong note, he said. "We kept our heads high and found ways to get runs across the plate."
His teammate, pitcher Bradley Lokant, a member of the Class of 2021, is simply glad, first of all, to be able to play this spring and enjoy the team's current situation. "My junior year (the year that got cancelled due to Covid-19) was a disappointing one to lose out on. Not having that season put so much more importance and excitement onto this season, getting to play baseball for one last season.
"We did not get to play a lot of games this year due to a mixture of quarantines and rain-outs. We started the season off (with) six wins and three losses, but every day we were uncertain if we were going to have a game because of all the outside factors. Ending the regular season with seven straight losses was pretty rough, but I did not feel that our spirits were dampened by it.
"We had some hard-fought games, and even though we were not playing our best baseball, we were still giving it our all."
"I think our team started playing free and loose in the playoffs," Lokant continued. "We were not expected to win our section, let alone go to Lewisburg and take two straight games to clinch the title.
"I think our strengths are that we play tough, and we squeeze runs by any way that we are able to. I think we have also held teams to pretty low scoring games when we needed to, as well."
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Lokant said, "I would say that sometimes emotions run high, but that's why every teammate backs each other up, to keep from any outbursts or ejections."
"Nobody expected anything from us," said Wolfe. "The key to us winning games is our baserunning; we're really aggressive on the base paths (from 1-9 in the order)."
That aggressiveness "makes teams nervous" and creates opportunities, said Wolfe. To have success against the Red Dragons, he said, "We've got to hit the ball and find ways to get on base. Them being previous state champions is definitely on our minds, but the way we've battled, our whole team knows we can play with them."
"Throwing strikes, limiting walks will be a big key to success," said Lokant. "Letting our defense have a chance is important.
"Offensively, we need to be aggressive up at the plate, as well (as) on the base paths. We need to play our game out there, and it will be tough to beat us out if we stick to our game plan."
It's a fun time to be playing, Lokant said. "At this point in the season, no one has been in school for a while. All of us playing are playing for the love of the game, and I think that our whole team has been having a great time. Putting in time during the summer to finish out the season shows the passion of the coaches and players, and that we are enjoying ourselves."
After Monday night's game at St. Albans, the scene shifts to Oak Hill for a 7 p.m. game on Tuesday. If necessary, a third game will be contested at St. Albans on Wednesday.
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In the regular season, Ty Nelson led the OHHS batting attack with a .364 batting average (20-for-55). He had four doubles, two home runs and 17 RBIs. Wolfe hit .324 (23-for-71) with five doubles, eight RBIs and 29 runs scored. Jacob Ward followed at .309 (17-for-55) with nine RBIs, and Trent Rider batted .296 (16-for-54) with 10 RBIs. Jayden McLain belted four doubles, and McLain, Braxton Hall and Cole Legg scored 14 runs apiece.
Lokant guided the pitching corps with a 4-3 record and one save in 48.0 innings pitched. Wolfe is 2-2 and McLain is 2-1.
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