CHARLESTON - St. Albans junior pitcher Ayden Hodges had a simple message for his team in the middle of Sunday's Class AAA Championship battle with Hurricane.
"I told my guys, 'I need one run, guys. This will be it,'" Hodges said.
The Red Dragons gave Hodges plenty more, but Hodges made sure his word was good, delivering a one-hit performance over 6 2/3 innings to lead St. Albans to its second title in three seasons with a 5-0 win over Hurricane in front of a large crowd at Appalachian Power Park on Sunday.
The matchup brought together a pair of teams who are no stranger to the field at Appalachian Power Park.
St. Albans' title win is their second in three years - the other also coming over Hurricane in 2017. For the Redskins, it was their third-consecutive trip to the Class AAA title game. Hurricane (33-6) won the 2018 Class AAA title as well.
With so much experience, the game was going to come down execution, and St. Albans excelled in those situations, jumping out to an early lead to provide cushion for Hodges before getting important insurance runs in the fifth and sixth inning to put away any chance for a Hurricane comeback.
In the sixth, Ridge Lester delivered an RBI double before an RBI bunt single from Travis Atkins also provided some cushion as the Red Dragons got a complete performance in the win.
"Hats off to the kids," St. Albans coach Rick Whitman said. "It's all about the kids. From the last out of the Wheeling Park game last year to this, it's a great reward for their hard work."
The win also gave St. Albans a season sweep of Hurricane, who had three of its six losses come at the hands of the Red Dragons. Much like the two regular-season losses, the Redskins simply couldn't find the key hit when they needed it.
"We just didn't get that big hit," Hurricane coach Brian Sutphin said. "I thought we'd get to him as the game went and we didn't. Obviously, he did his job."
The win concluded a dominant pitching performance over the two games for St. Albans (34-4), who allowed just one run in two games behind the strength of Hodges and Jake Carr.
For Hodges, the key was his ability to work out of jams throughout the contest.
Despite the Redskins only having one hit, they stranded seven runners in the loss - many of which came on five walks from Hodges.
However, Hodges repeatedly averted his self-inflicted danger by getting timely outs in crucial situations to keep the Redskins from gaining any momentum.
While Carr pitched the Red Dragons into the title game with a win over Wheeling Park, it was his bat that was loud on Sunday against the Redskins.
In a scoreless game in the third inning, Carr delivered an RBI triple to score Drew Whitman with the game's first run before coming in on Connor Fizer's RBI groundout to give the Red Dragons a 2-0 lead.
Carr, a veteran of the state tournament, knew how important it was to provide early run-support for Hodges, who was in his first start on the mound at the state tournament.
Getting the first runs of the game was especially important for the Red Dragons after both teams had squandered opportunities to jump out in the first inning.
St. Albans had a bases-loaded, no-out situation and Noah Cummings just missed a grand slam that leaked foul into the party deck at Appalachian Power Park. Hurricane starter Joel Gardner battled back to strike out Cummings before inducing a 4-6-3 double play to end the threat.
Hurricane's best opportunity to score also came in the first when the Redskins used a walk, stolen base and balk to place a runner at third with one out. After a hit batsman and another stolen base puts two runners in scoring position with one out, Hodges struck out Gardner before getting Enzo Lewis to ground out to escape the jam.
BRIDGEPORT 5, FRANKFORT 2: Bridgeport's focus on the little things paid big dividends Saturday night as the Indians topped Frankfort 5-2 at Appalachian Power Park to claim their sixth consecutive Class AA baseball state championship.
The Indians (30-7) successfully converted five sacrifices in the win, with sacrifice flies by senior catcher Ethan Perry and sophomore pinch-hitter JD Love immediately producing runs.
Perry's sac fly was part of a two-run first inning that was largely made possible when senior Vincenzo Cava reached on an error after sophomore Ryan Goff led off with a single. Indians junior pitcher Nick Stalnaker laid down a bunt to move the runners up, and Perry followed with a fly ball to center before senior Drew Harbert singled down the right-field line to score Cava and give Stalnaker a lead that he held until being relieved in the sixth inning.
Frankfort, which stranded eight runners in its first championship game appearance since 2001 after spending numerous years in the same region as the Indians, loaded the bases in the third inning and again in the sixth, but failed to get on the scoreboard until Bridgeport had a 4-0 lead.
The second-seeded Falcons (27-6) loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth when a sacrifice fly and a run-scoring single by sophomore Ben Nestor allowed them to pull to within 4-2 after Bridgeport coach Robert Shields lifted Stalnaker in favor of junior Tyler Wilkinson. Wilkinson escaped further damage when he got Frankfort senior pitcher Zack Whitacre to ground into a fielder's choice.
Whitacre, who drew the loss, could not hold the Indians off the board in his lone opportunity to produce a shutdown inning, and it took all wind out of the Falcons' sails. Cava was sent to first after being hit by a pitch with one out, and Stalnaker followed with a single. Perry then produced his second RBI of the game with a single to shallow left field before Frankfort senior reliever Michael White could get out of the inning.
Senior Connor Robe got the save, getting a 6-4-3 double play off a grounder by Brady Whitacre to end the game.
Perry was 2-for-3 with two RBI for Bridgeport, which finished the season by winning its last six games and 10 of its last 12. Harbert also finished 2 for 3 at the plate. The Indians did not lose to a Class AA team in 2019, going 26-0 against same-class opponents.
Frankfort senior Caleb Hare went 2 for 3 in the loss. There were no extra-base hits in the game.
Frankfort is the sixth different team dispatched by the Indians in title games in the last six seasons. Bridgeport's state record run of championship game wins has come against Independence, Chapmanville, PikeView, Weir, Wayne and Frankfort.
MOOREFIELD 4, CHARLESTON CATHOLIC 2: Moorefield didn't exactly follow the typical script, but the story still had a happy ending for the Yellow Jackets.
Thomas Williams, the team's No. 9 hitter, had a pair of RBI singles, including the tie-breaking run in the bottom of the fourth and Blake Watts came through with four innings of scoreless relief Sunday as Moorefield earned a repeat Class A championship with a 4-2 win against Charleston Catholic at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston.
"I don't know how it's supposed to feel, but it feels great,'' said Moorefield coach Wade Armentrout. "We've never done this before [repeat titles] in baseball, but these guys are fantastic young men and great to coach. I'm blessed to be part of it. They just do things unselfishly. It's been that way all year long.''
The Yellow Jackets (27-11) had to come from behind twice in the early innings against the Irish (27-11), but a pair of unearned runs in the fourth proved to be the decisive margin as they broke away from a 2-all tie.
Williams singled home Grant Keller for a 3-2 Jackets lead, then Jayden Moore later scored on an infield throwing error for a big insurance run.
From there, the Jackets relied on Watts, a big left-hander who provided a different look for Catholic from starter Derek Hoyt. Watts struck out four of the first seven batters he faced and worked four scoreless innings in all, permitting four hits, fanning four and walking none.
Rick Ryan of the Charleston Gazette-Mail contributed to this report