CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There was one thing missing from the game of Winfield shortstop Brandon Wright that kept the speedy senior from being dangerous both in the field and at the plate — his bat.
Through 2014, the total package has arrived for coach Will Isaacs’ baseball team and much of it showed during Wednesday night’s 5-4 win over visiting Nitro (15-4).
The Wildcats, the top-ranked team in the Daily Mail sportswriters’ Class AAA baseball poll, couldn’t pitch the ball past the Generals and couldn’t hit it past them either.
Nitro coach Steve Pritchard knows why.
“You shouldn’t hit the ball his way and you should never allow him on base,” Pritchard said of Wright. “He can steal any base he wants. He’s just a weapon. He covers a lot of ground. I haven’t seen anybody this year faster than him. He’s just a great player.”
Wright was the catalyst for the Generals (6-10), who had lost four consecutive games and six of their last eight.
His first-inning walk resulted in a run and his third-inning single led to his 20th stolen base of the season and a second run for Winfield. He probably would have stolen a base in the first inning except that Brett Adkins, Winfield’s No. 2 batter, had the bunt sign.
Things are a little different for the kid they call “Goob.”
“I’ve always been confident in my abilities,” said Wright, the son of longtime Kanawha Valley coach Fred Wright. “I never really questioned myself. I do feel a lot more comfortable at the plate. I don’t feel like there are many pitchers who can throw one by me or fool me all the time.
“I changed my stance a little. I was opened up too much and I could come in and cut myself off on the inside pitches. I stand up, shortened my stride a little, get to the ball a little quicker.”
The results are astounding for Wright, who batted .319 with 23 stolen bases and scored 33 runs as a junior. Through half the 2014 season, Wright is batting .500 (30-60) with 20 stolen bases and 23 runs.
“That’s the key,” Isaacs said. “We kind of feel if we get him on base and get him to second, he can score on one hit. That’s really big for us, and he’s been doing it in various ways. He has infield hits, he has doubles, triples.”
He had a single, a stolen base and two runs on Wednesday but had a lot of help. Jordan Clark had three singles and an RBI and Derek Whiteside singled in two runs — including the game-winner — in the fifth inning.
Adkins had a single, but more importantly, he pitched a complete game, throwing 95 pitches (51 strikes) with no strikeouts, but also only two walks. Adkins came into the game with an 0-3 record, a 6.70 earned run average, 18 walks and nine strikeouts.
The Wildcats couldn’t sustain much against Adkins, who took the loss in a 12-2 decision to Nitro on March 31. A Solomon Shamblin double, Andrew Stone single and Ryan McDonough flyout staked Nitro to a 2-0 lead. A Dylan Slack fly out tied the score in the third, but once Winfield took a two-run lead in the fifth, Nitro could manage just one more run on an Eddie Flores sixth-inning triple.
Some of their efforts were halted by Wright, who was part of two double plays, made an underhanded catch of a fly ball in short center field and assisted on a total of nine plays. He had one error, but quickly made up for it by helping turn a double play with second baseman Aaron Perry one pitch later.
His catch of a Matt Jewell line drive required perfect timing of his jump.
“The first thing was the sound of the bat,” said the 5-foot-10 Wright. “I could tell he didn’t hit it solid, but it was still a decent line drive. I knew I had to wait on it a second, I saw the height of it and thought, ‘I think I can get to that.’ Timed it right and got it.”
The Generals have won just six games this season and haven’t earned back-to-back victories.
“Everyone knew they were voted No. 1 in the poll,” Wright said. “We came in thinking if could just contend with them here, it would be something good for us. We came out, stayed relaxed the whole time and got the win.”
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at email@example.com or 304-348-4837. Follow him on Twitter @richdailymail