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Cold nights, hot bats: Cougars have winning start

By Bob Madison - For the Chronicle | Apr 23, 2021

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Peyton Corwine, Connor Bailey, Sammy Roberts, Will Regan Allinger, Mason LaFollette and Riley Vadasz have joined together with 2019 holdovers Zac Rose, Cullen Horowicz, Isaiah Morris and Kamien Gonzalez to lift the cover off Jefferson High School’s 2021 baseball season. There wasn’t any baseball in 2020 when the awaited season was completely cancelled because of the coronavirus.

Rose, C. Horowicz, Morris and Gonzalez didn’t get to play as juniors. Now, combined with the group of players who were elsewhere or non-starters in 2019, Jefferson has made a serious beginning to the 2021 season. There have been victories over Spring Mills (14-3 in five innings), Washington (9-4) and Berkeley Springs (14-0 in six innings) in the dreary and chilled weather of the opening week.

At the beginning of this week, the quality of the competition was a little more prickly when Hedgesville and Martinsburg were seen. Hedgesville had opened its season with a 5-0 blanking of the Bulldogs.

Allinger had home runs in two different games. Corwine was an on-base presence from his lead-off spot in the batting order, Bailey joined Corwine with an atypically high on-base percentage. C. Horowicz, Morris and Rose each had a home run. The strikeout pitching of lefthanders Corwine and Rose and righthander Roberts helped make fielding and throwing in the cold weather often unnecessary. Vadasz was effective in his first-ever innings as a Jefferson pitcher.

The games earlier this week versus Hedgesville and Martinsburg should be indicators as to how well the Cougars will fare when the postseason comes with its intense innings as area teams attempt to wade through the games they have to win to move on to the Class AAA bracket in Charleston at the state tournament.

Jefferson again showed its trademark offensive strategy when it successfully stole bases right from outset against Spring Mills and the other first-week catchers.

Another typical early-season phenomena was just as real as usual when games against Berkeley Springs and Greenbrier East were effected by the weather and not played or had to be re-scheduled.

Rose, Corwine, Roberts and Vadasz weren’t the only pitchers to get in their innings and notch their strikeouts. Daquon Shipe, C. Horowicz, G. Horowicz and Gonzalez also provided the Cougars with outs. Shipe actually struck out seven batters in only two innings of late-inning work. He recorded a rare four-strikeout inning.

Mark Smith, Sam Wabnitz, Jordan Biggs, Matthew Vickers, Ryan Hefner, Will Ricketts and Noah Carter all received playing time or at-bats in at least one of the three early-season wins.

Before the 2021 regular season is completed at the tail end of May, the Cougars are scheduled to play Bridgeport (a team that has won six consecutive Class AA state championships) and Morgantown.

Before the last game of the year comes in Hedgesville on May 25, the Cougars will saturate the state with games versus Frankfort, Pendleton County, Keyser, Moorefield and Hampshire in addition to the other five Class AAA schools located in either Jefferson or Berkeley County.

Already, James Wood (Winchester) has been added for two games as has Legacy Christian Academy for a home game on April 26 at 6 p.m.

And already the 2021 season has brought some sense of normalcy back to high school baseball: cool or cold nights, Jefferson winning games and the strike-throwing pitchers faring well against the still-thawing hitters.