SHENANDOAH JUNCTION - The Jefferson Cougars' pursuit of state title No. 10 continues.
Jefferson's Jamie Richard and Anthony DiAmario extended postseason hot streaks, and Tanner Everton earned his 11th victory on the mound.
The Cougars exploded for a big finish with two four-run innings to overtake Elkins and defeat the Tigers 10-2 to capture the Class AAA, Region II high school baseball title Wednesday at Sager Field.
Elkins’ Ryne Bonnell turns to throw to first for a possible double play after Jefferson’s Trevor Poe was forced out at second during the third inning of the Cougars’ 10-2 win over the Tigers in the Class AAA, Region II title game on Wednesday at Sager Field. Poe was called for interference on the play as Bonnell’s ensuing throw sailed high. (Journal photo by Ron Agnir)
"We know this is a tough region. It seems like somebody from this region every year plays in the championship game," Elkins coach Adam Roth said. "I think Jefferson has a great shot. That is a great baseball team. We did everything we could today. There is no shame getting beat by a great baseball team like that."
"Tonight, the two guys that were hot were Jamie and Anthony. Both had big hits," Jefferson coach John Lowery Sr. said. "It was a great win, and now we have the defending state champions."
Jefferson will face Nitro in the state semifinals on June 3 at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston.
Nitro defeated Cabell-Midland Wednesday to wrap up the Region IV title.
Richard went 3 for 3 with a home run, a double, two RBI and a pair of runs scored. DiAmario went 3 for 4 with four RBI and a momentum-swinging two-run double in the second inning that set up Jefferson's big finish.
After Jefferson fell behind 2-0 in the second, DiAmario doubled down the right-field line with two outs in the home half to score a pair of runs, tie the game and awaken the Cougar bats.
"I was just looking for a pitch to hit and got it," DiAmario said.
Jefferson went on to score four runs in the third and four more in the fifth to deflate Elkins, which fell one game short of reaching the state tournament for the first time since 2001.
"This is a tough loss," Roth said. "We came into this game thinking we had a shot at it."
Everton (11-0) kept the offensively gifted Tigers in their cage. He scattered two runs (none earned) and five hits across five innings. He struck out four and walked two.
"We knew coming into the game that they were a good-hitting ball team," Everton said. "We were talking about throwing the breaking ball, throwing a mix of change-ups and keeping them off balance. Hitting our locations, not giving them anything to hit hard and keeping them off balance was our key point today."
"Tanner has been a workhorse," Lowery said. "He's a warrior, a battler. He'll give you the effort and the heart. He's willing to lay it on the line."
Chris Payne threw two innings of scoreless relief. He gave up two hits while striking out three and walking a pair.
"Chris is very capable," Lowery said. "He has velocity, and, when he locates, he's a pretty good high school pitcher."
Elkins started with the same confidence that lifted them past Bridgeport in the Region II semifinals.
After Heath Broughton singled with one out in the second, back-to-back Cougar errors gave the Tigers and early 1-0 lead and put runners at first and second for Nick Jones, who singled to bring in a run for a 2-0 lead.
Elkins threatened again in the third. Lance VanNoy doubled to lead off the frame, Scott Fox walked and Mike Elza bunted the pair into scoring position with one out.
After a visit from Lowery, Everton settled, struck out Broughton and got Mike Lewis to ground out to second to thwart the threat.
From there, it was Jefferson's night.
The Cougars loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the third and brought in four runs on a fielder's choice by Everton, an RBI double by J.P. Jones and two-run home run by Richard for a 6-2 lead.
Jones kept the third-inning momentum alive after the umpires called Everton out at first on a fielder's choice because of interference at second. Jefferson went from having a 4-2 lead with a runner at first and one out to holding a 3-2 lead with a runner at third and two outs.
Jones neutralized the situation during the Cougars' next at-bat, doubling home Corey Mangold, who was returned to third after the interference call, and bringing up Richard, who drove a blazing shot over the left-field wall for a 6-2 Jefferson advantage.
"We've been hitting the ball consistently, and we're going to keep hitting the ball consistently. It's been a really big part of our game," Richard said. "Being able to score double-digit runs is going to help us at (Appalachian) Power Park."
Jefferson kept rolling in the fifth, scoring four runs on a DiAmario two-RBI single, a Mangold sacrifice fly and a passed ball.
"We've been a good-hitting ball team all year long. I knew it was just a matter of time before we got some hits and scored some runs," Everton said. "(Richard) and (DiAmario) really came up big today. We think if we can keep hitting the ball, keep scoring runs and keep getting teams out that we'll have good success down there at states."
Broughton took the loss for the Tigers, who used Brennan Dettinger, Cody Gainer and Elza on the mound to finish out the contest.
Broughton gave up six earned runs on five hits while striking out two and walking two.
VanNoy paced the Tigers with a 2-for-4 effort with a double and a single. Broughton added a pair of hits, and Jones finished with a hit and an RBI.
"We were emotional off our win at Bridgeport," Roth said. "We came in today, got out to a lead and played hard. We did everything we could do today. I'm proud of my team."
Everton said it's every high school players dream to wrap up the season at Power Park in Charleston, and now he and the Cougars are heading back for the first time since 2007.
"I've been in this program for four years, never been there. It's my first trip, so I'm pretty excited," he said. "It is a pretty much a good ending for my senior year. No matter what, at least we'll get to go and play.
"Hopefully everybody has the same mindset going in - playing as a team for a common goal. Hopefully, we'll bring back the title to Jefferson High School."
- Nate Maczuzak can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 131, or firstname.lastname@example.org