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 Class AA all-state baseball first team, as voted on by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
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 first time since 2007.
“When there are runners on base, I try to be as productive as possible,” said Bird, who finished with 31 RBIs 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 struck out only once this season. That came in a May 2 loss to Point Pleasant, the team the Huskies beat 7-1 in the Class AA state semifinals. He hit safety in all but four games this season and had 20 multiple-hit games, including seven in the last nine.
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 defeat 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, including third base.
Just how important was Bird to Hoover’s success? He failed to score a run in seven of Hoover’s 35 games this season, including the state championship, and the Huskies were 2-5 in those contests.
Bird missed some off-season time because of a broken wrist, but didn’t fail to keep himself in playing shape.
“I was out for two or three months,” Bird said. “I was working out my legs, but I worked hard, because I want to play Division I baseball so bad. Just working hard and playing every day and keeping my head straight are the biggest keys for me.”
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 RBIs, four home runs and 11 doubles.
Also moving to first team after earning second-team accolades in 2011 are Wyoming East senior pitcher Travis McKinney, who was 9-3 with a 2.16 earned run average and 109 strikeouts and 12 walks in 78 innings pitched. First-team pick and Magnolia senior utility player Kyle Elliott (.435, 33 RBIs; 5-3, 2.04 ERA, 62 strikeouts, 581/3 innings) also was a second-team choice as a junior, as was Point Pleasant senior Eric Roberts (.473, seven HRs, 39 RBIs, 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, batted .446 with 26 RBIs. 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 RBIs, 17 doubles, 62 runs) and utility player and senior Ryder Bolin (.514, 55 RBIs, nine 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).
The only other underclassman on the first team is Berkeley Springs junior pitcher Tyler Holt (7-1, 1.43 ERA, 76 strikeouts in 582/3 innings).
Jordan Banks, who helped Chapmanville win the Class AA state title in 2011, batted .490 with three home runs and 27 RBIs. 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 701/3 innings.
Senior Andy Green of Philip Barbour was chosen as an infielder. He batted .403 with seven doubles and 15 stolen bases.
Oak Hill senior infielder Wyatt Adkins batted .504 with 17 stolen bases and was also accorded a first-team spot, and 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 RBIs and 16 doubles, as well as finishing with a 5-3 pitching record, a 2.21 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 57 innings.
On top of the second team is Point Pleasant’s Brandon Toler, who batted .427 for the state semifinalist Big Blacks with only five strikeouts and 34 RBIs in 125 at-bats.
* Also, Chapmanville senior shortstop Tyler Cox was named Special Honorable Mention All-State. Chapmanville senior DH Tyler Collins was honorable mention.