AP NEWS

Hodges whiffs 11, Red Dragons beat Highlanders

April 13, 2019

ST. ALBANS, W.Va. — With the regular season about halfway gone, St. Albans seems to be developing the necessary components to again go all the way.

Left-hander Ayden Hodges fired a four-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and six different Red Dragons drove in runs Friday afternoon, leading to a six-inning 10-0 victory against visiting Huntington High to start the weekend Ed Carter Memorial at Loftis Field.

Five players donated a pair of hits as the Red Dragons ripped 11 hits off the Highlanders and scored four times in the bottom of the sixth to halt the game and capture their sixth straight win. Brandon Lucas and Ridge Lester turned in two RBI hits apiece for SA (14-2), the 2017 Class AAA champion.

″(Hodges) threw the ball well,″ said St. Albans coach Rick Whitman.

“He wasn’t as sharp as he has been, but he was still good.″

Perhaps Hodges’ best moment came in the top of the sixth when Huntington High (10-9) loaded the bases with one out, trailing 6-0, and threatened to break up his shutout. Hodges, however, fanned the next two hitters to escape the jam.

“He got tired that inning a little bit,″ Whitman said. “He was up around 90 pitches. But he bulldogged it at the end and got out of the inning. I’m proud of him for that.″

Other St. Albans batters to chip in to the victory included Jake Carr (2-for-3, double, triple), Connor Fizer (2-for-2, double, RBI) and Nick Loftis (2-for-2) who delivered a two-run double and a bases-loaded walk to send in three runs.

Huntington used four different pitchers less than 24 hours after it earned a nine-inning home win against George Washington. Coach Danny Harbert said it really wasn’t due to a lack of available pitching.

“We’re not really low on arms,″ Harbert said. “Our starter (Bryce Carter) threw a lot of strikes and he was on point, but to their credit they just hit the ball all over the place. When he got ahead 0-2, 1-2 he threw a couple of

pitches I wish he would have made them chase a little bit, but they just put the bat on the ball. They’re a good hitting team.

“They’ve really got a solid club. They’ve got everything — speed, arms, power. They’ve got about three, four pitchers who are excellent pitchers that just shut you down if you’re not ready.″

Huntington High managed singles by four different players — Jordan Walker, Evan Juniper, Bryson Parker and Ethan Proctor. The Highlanders got five runners into scoring position without plating a run. It marked just the second time this season they’d been 10-runned.

“They hit the ball well, and we just couldn’t recover,″ Harbert said.

“Hodges commanded the zone and basically shut us down at the plate. We had too many backward Ks, called third strikes. We’ll grow and get stronger from this and this will help us for our sectional because we’re going to face teams like St. Albans in our sectional and hopefully we can make some adjustments the next couple weeks.″

As for St. Albans, which has lost only to Class AA Shady Spring and Nitro, Whitman hopes the improvement keeps coming as the postseason looms. The Red Dragons made it back to the state tournament at Power Park last year, losing to Wheeling Park 1-0 in the first round.

“There’s a lot of stuff we need to focus on, the little things,″ Whitman said. “That’s what the postseason comes down to — who does the little things, and who doesn’t. It’s all about us. If we come to play, we’re as good as anybody, but if we don’t show up, we can get beat by anybody. To this point, I’ve been really pleased except for two games, and we lost them both.

“It’s a long season and I told the guys the other day we’re about halfway done and the season’s going to be determined by where you go from right now until the end. Do we get better, do we stay the same or do we get worse? That’s what it comes down to.″

Friday’s three scheduled Ed Carter games at South Charleston were all rained out. The late games at St. Albans Friday had Parkersburg South playing Huntington and St. Albans playing South. Only two games are set for Saturday, both at SA — St. Albans versus Spring Valley at 10 a.m., followed by Huntington against SC.

The tournament is named after the late Ed Carter, a former coach, athletic director and teacher at St. Albans.