By Dave Morrison
BECKLEY – Certainly West Virginia University’s recent baseball success, including hosting a NCAA Regional at Mon Park, has Mountaineer Nation catching diamond flu.
And local fans may have a chance to see the Mountaineers future through the West Virginia Red Devils travel baseball team.
Two members of the team are Mountaineer recruits, pitchers Jake Watters from Bland, Va. and Carter Lyles from Scott. There is a possibility that St. Albans’ Jake Carr, another WVU recruit could pitch a few games, but that is currently not ironed out yet.
There is also a lot of local flavor on the team which boosts a roster of 30, Nineteen players are from Region 3 area teams.
“This is one of the biggest rosters I’ve been willing to carry with 30 kids total,” coach J.P. Stevens said. “Fourteen of the 30 are graduating seniors so I’m blessed and honored to say that 12 of the 14 are going of to play college ball somewhere.”
The roster is big enough to potentially break the squad up into two teams.
Right now the team is scheduled to play in eight tournaments in Virginia and the squad is the defending champion of three of them and was runner-up in two others. One tournament was rained out last year.
Stevens said he is trying to schedule some area games.
Watters was a big gun for the Red Devils last season. This will be Lyles first season with the squad.
“It will be a short stay for both because they have to report to Morgantown early this summer,” Stevens said. “Both of them can hit 90 miles per hour on the mound, so they will be a dominate 1-2 while we’ve got them.”
Many of the future college stars will be reporting to colleges, making the depth a luxury Stevens is happy to possess.
Right now there is certainly is no shortage of arms, including Woodrow Wilson’s Hunter Fansler and Liberty’s Chris Begley and James Monroe’s young tandem of talented sophomores in Andrew Hazelwood and Cody Moore.
“James Monroe coach Nick Newberry has been running an excellent program the last few years he;s been there, and we benefit from that with those two in the next few years,” Stevens said. “They will both see a good bit of time on the mound this summer which will allow them to continue to grow and develop like they should.”
Fansler was 5-3 for Woodrow Wilson with a 2.70 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 42 innings.
Begley a lefty as well, had 71 strikeouts this spring for the Raiders.
Hazelwood was 5-2 with a 2.72 earned run average and 79 strikeouts in 54 innings and Moore was 3-3 with a 1.00 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 42 innings.
Junior Avery Mabe (George Wythe, Va.) is on the roster but his play will be limited since he is playing for the 17-under National team. He also possesses a fastball timed around 90miles per hour.
“He is committed to Virginia and anytime he is around hr will be a great example of the younger guys of what hard work gets you and he makes us that much more dangerous.”
Many of the college-bound players will exit midway through the travel season and a lot of positions will switch up to the younger players.
Begley, who will play at Alice Lloyd College, will be the teams first baseman, a role he played at Liberty.
“His ability to scoop and swipe tags on pickoff moves are second to none,” Stevens said. “Having him for the first month-and-a-half will allow us to work with Reece Standard (Greater Beckley) and develop him with the glove to go with the huge bat he carries.”
Same is true with the catching situation, where Bluefield’s Drake Mullins (Pineville) will start with Shady Spring’s Parker Redden in the fold.
“They will be splitting time behind the plate,” Stevens said. “Having two std catchers will allow us to use Drake in other places where needed, including on the mound from time to time and keep him healthy as he leaves for college and keep Parker fresh for all the catching he will do after Drake leaves.”
Up the middle the team will have Princeton’s Zach Powell and Shady’s Caleb Dangerfield and several kids will take turns in the outfield with the depth available.
Hitting will not be a problem with some potent bats.
Fansler was the area’s top player, hitting .531 with nine doubles, seven triples and seven home runs. He scored 37 runs and had 29 RBI.
Begley hit .345 with eight doubles and three home runs.
Shady Spring’s Justin Lovell, and infielder/pitcher, hit .420 with eight doubles, two triples and six home runs. He knocked in 36 runs and scored 31 more.
Standard hit .436 for GBC with six doubles and five home runs. He is one of five GBC players on the roster with Andrew Patterson (.527, 8 double, 7 triples and 3 home runs), Seth Wolfe (.425), Garrett Matherly (5 double, 3 triples and a home run) and Blake Hunt (.418, 5 doubles, 3 triples).
Mullins hit .390 for Bluefield with five doubles, five triple and two home runs.
Oak Hill’s Lane Jordan, also a smooth-fielding middle infielder by trade, was one of the area’s leading doubles hitters with 14 to go with a team-best .359 average and 38 runs scored. His teammate Ty Nelson hit .330 with seven doubles.
James Monroe’s Monroe Mohler hilt .371 with 10 doubles and three triples and he scored 38 runs.
Here is the Schedule for the West Virginia Red Devils travel team.
- June 29-30 at USSSA Summer Open
- July 13-14 at USSSA East Coast Championship
- July 20-21 a USSSA Summer Bash
- Aug. 2-4 at State Games of America
- Aug. 24-25 at USSSA Elite Showcase
- Sept. 7-8 at SWVA Elite Showcase
- Sept. 14-15 at USSSA State Championship
- Oct. 5-6 at USSSA Battle of the Rings
All these events will be played in Virginia in the Christiansburg, Salem and Roanoke areas. The West Virginia Red Devils are the defending champions of the USSSA Summer Open, the. USSSA East Coast Championship and the USSSA Summer Bash and finished second in the State games of America and the USSSA State Championship.
Coach J.P. Stephens said he hopes to add a few area games to the schedule.
Chris Begley, Liberty
Peyton Brown, Scott
Tanner Buchanan, Woodrow Wilson
Kerry Collins, Bluefield
Caleb Dangerfield, Shady Spring
Andrew Hazelwood, James Monroe
Nick Jewell, James Monroe
Blake Hunt, Greater Beckley
Lane Jordan, Oak Hill
Justin Lovell, Shady Spring
Carter Lyles, Scott
Garrett Matherly, Greater Beckley
Nick Miller, Bluefield College
Monroe Mohler, James Monroe
Cody Moore, James Monroe
Drake Mullins, Bluefield
Ty Nelson, Oak Hill
Andrew Patterson, Greater Beckley
Zack Powell, Princeton
Parker Redden, Shady Spring
Reece Standard, Greater Beckley
Jake Watters, Bland, Va.
Colton Wimmer, Graham, Va.
Seth Wolfe, Greater Beckley