Three of the state’s brightest baseball stars used the grandest of stages in West Virginia to demonstrate why they are Class AAA All-Staters as well as future NCAA Division I players.
Jonathan Blackwell, Jake Carr and Chase Delauter all shined brightly during last weekend’s state tournament. Each turned in sterling performances for their respective teams at Appalachian Power Park.
Carr pitched a three-hitter for eventual state champion St. Albans in a 5-1 victory over Wheeling Park in one AAA semifinal, while Blackwell of Hurricane and Delauter of Hedgesville waged one of the best pitching duels the state has seen in a 1-0 victory by Blackwell and the Redskins in the other. Both pitchers tossed two-hitters with one walk in that semifinal.
Additionally, Delauter reached two of three times Blackwell allowed a base runner with a double and a walk. Delauter’s offensive prowess and pitching ability are a reflection as to why he signed on as a two-position player — pitcher and outfielder — at James Madison. Blackwell (Coastal Carolina) and Carr (West Virginia) are headed to Division I schools strictly as pitchers.
Today, two of them — Carr and Delauter — head up the Class AAA All-State team as co-captains of the first team named by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
Besides being repeat first-team selections as a pitcher and utility player, respectively, Carr and Delauter have been named as co-state players of the year. Blackwell moved up from the second team in 2018.
It’s the second straight time for Delauter to win the John Lowery Award as the state’s top player. He certainly did everything in his power to keep the trophy as he raised his batting average by slightly more than 100 points to .606 and lowered his ERA by more than a run to 0.84.
Carr won all seven of his decisions and posted a 0.33 ERA while striking out 105 and walking just 14 in 63 innings.
Seven of the 15 first-team honorees hail from the Mountain State Athletic Conference, including all three pitchers, and five from the six-member Eastern Panhandle Athletic Conference. In addition to Carr and Blackwell, the third pitcher is Cody Sharp of MSAC member Spring Valley.
The other MSAC honorees are infielder Joel Gardner, who scored the lone run in Hurricane’s win over Hedgesville in Charleston, and George Washington’s Aidan Johnson; outfielder Easton Petitt of Cabell Midland; and utility player Tyler Cox of Hurricane.
Besided Delauter, the EPAC first-teamers also include infielder Grant Harman (Martinsburg), outfielders Hunter Coe (Hedgesville) and Blake Hartman (Musselman), and utility player Taylor Tennant (Jefferson).
The rest of the first-team lineup includes catcher Tyler Haskins of Ripley, infielder Trevor Thomas of Wheeling Park and utility player Hunter Fansler of Woodrow Wilson.
Of the first-team selections, one-third of them made the squad last year: Carr, Cox, Delauter, Johnson and Petitt, although Johnson as a catcher in 2018, rather than an infielder. Beside Blackwell, Tennant and Coe also moved up from last year’s second team.
Harman might be as intriguing a player as any of the first-team group. He earned first-team honors in three sports, leading Martinsburg to its third straight state football championship at quarterback and was honored on the All-State unit as the state’s top defensive back; he earned first-team All-State honors in basketball as Martinsburg reached the state title game but lost its only contest of the season in the finals; and batted .414 as the leadoff hitter in the key position of shortstop for the 23-win Bulldogs.
Despite Johnson’s move from catcher to the infield, he was able to secure the most combined votes from coaches and sports writers among the infielders. He batted .450 with six home runs and 34 RBIs. His replacement behind the plate, Haskins, also hit six homers while batting .410 as a leadoff hitter for the Vikings.
Of the pitchers, Carr added a .376 batting average and .592 on-base percentage due largely to his 41 walks; Blackwell finished with a 10-1 record and 1.08 ERA with 109 strikeouts in 642/3 innings; and Sharp won three of four decisions and struck out 76 batters.
The other infielders beside Harman and Johnson, Trevor Thomas of Wheeling Park batted .386 with 27 runs and Gardner batted .479 with six homers and 51 RBIs. Gardner also won eight games as a pitcher with a 1.59 ERA.
In the outfield, Hartman, an All-State football player, finished one hit short of topping .500 for the season as he batted .494. Coe found himself playing in the shadow of Delauter and moved from right field to center field when his teammate pitched. Coe batted .410 with seven home runs and 42 RBIs. Petitt hit .470 and drove in 36 runs.
While Delauter had the top numbers among the utility players, one really sticks out — 52. He scored 52 runs, a number expected as the second hitter in the lineup, but Delauter also drove in 52 runs.
Tennant, who drew Jefferson’s most-difficult pitching assignments, including twice against Hedgesville, won nine of 13 decisions, struck out 87 and posted a 1.45 ERA. He batted .425 as the team’s second baseman and produced 33 doubles. Of the two other utility players, Fansler batted .531 with seven homers and 29 RBIs, and Cox, an infielder when he doesn’t pitch, hit .316 with 31 RBIs.
The second team is led by Noah Cummings, an infielder from state champion St. Albans who was a first-team honoree a year ago and has been named the second-team captain.
The pitchers include Cabell Midland’s Chad Heiner, Parkersburg South’s Colin Bryant and St. Albans’ Ayden Hodges, who allowed one hit in 62/3 innings in the Red Dragons’ 5-0 victory over Hurricane in the state championship game.
Nick Loftis of St. Albans earned second-team honors as a utility player a season ago but was named as an infielder this time.
The rest of the second team includes catcher Chas McCool (John Marshall), infielders Jacob Shia (Wheeling Park) and Hunter Bellomy (Spring Valley), outfielders Andrew Sydenstricker (Capital), Dane Peterson (Ripley) and Charlie Pierson (Riverside) and utility players Ashton Staubs (Martinsburg), Caleb Taylor (Morgantown), Blake Tilley (Cabell Midland) and Cam Thomas (Capital).