St. Joseph Central baseball coach Dave Jenkins was faced with a tall task this spring.
He had only 11 players on his roster, but for Jenkins it was quality over quantity.
Together, the small group stormed its way to the state baseball tournament, turning heads along the way.
The journey did not go unnoticed as several players earned postseason accolades — none bigger than junior Lenny Washington.
Washington was named the captain of the Class A All-state first team — his third straight appearance on the first team — as selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
“Lenny is a phenomenal kid,” Jenkins said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to coach and be around a kid like that. He’s gotten better maturity-wise. I can’t say enough about him.
“I’ve had coaches call me and see him practice and they think he is a JUCO kid. He is a diamond-in-the-rough talent and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get drafted right out of high school.”
Washington posted a 2.32 ERA with a 7-3 record and 80 strikeouts this season, but there was one performance that stood out from the rest.
“On the mound, we played Fairland [Ohio]. He threw a perfect game in five innings and only threw 58 pitches and 49 of them were strikes,” Jenkins said. “It was 85 degrees and when it’s above 70 degrees, he is a different animal.
“At the plate, he hit a ball at Dawson-Bryant [Ohio] this year that probably traveled well over 400 feet. The ball just sounds different when it comes off his bat. I can’t explain it.”
Along with Washington’s remarkable season, his teammate, junior pitcher Hunter Eplin, also collected first-team honors.
Eplin finished the campaign with a 1.93 ERA, an 8-2 record and brought a .410 batting average to the dish.
“Our saving grace to having 11 kids was that we had six solid pitchers,” Jenkins said. “Eplin was right there with Lenny. I was holding [Eplin] for the championship because Lenny was our big horse that got us here but [Moorefield] just put the bat on the ball.”
Senior J.T. Hensley of Sherman makes his second appearance on the first team with a microscopic 0.97 ERA, a 10-2 record and an eye-popping 159 strikeouts.
Moorefield’s Isaac Van Meter (.344 BA., 1 HR, 26 RBI) rounds out the first-team pitchers.
Joining Van Meter as the only other sophomore on the first team is Wheeling Central shortstop Avery Lee.
After being used as a pinch runner in the state title game his freshman year, the young leadoff hitter made his presence felt this year. He batted .354 with a home run, 20 RBIs, 14 stolen bases and 36 runs.
“Last year we brought him up at the end because he played jayvee,” Wheeling Central coach Bo McConnaughy said. “I saw the potential in him right there.”
Joining Lee on the first-team infield are Charleston Catholic junior Thomas Blaydes (.527, 46 RBIs; 5-3), Parkersburg Catholic senior Ty Sturm (.432, 28 RBIs) and Ritchie County junior Zach Knight.
Senior Jacob Hoyt of St. Marys is the first-team catcher with an impressive .473 batting average, 31 RBIs and 13 doubles.
The outfield is led by Tyler Consolidated senior Tyler West, who compiled a .583 average with three home runs and 25 RBIs. Notre Dame junior Sam Romano and Summers County senior Sam Wykle fill the other outfield spots.
First-team utility spots belong to Charleston Catholic junior Marshall Pile (9-1 record, .513 batting average), Williamstown senior Cullen Cutright (7-0, 1.55 ERA) and Moorefield senior Blake Watts (.354, 30 RBIs).
The second team in Class A is led by senior captain and outfielder Tank Smith of Buffalo. Charleston Catholic junior Parker Ross and Wahama senior David Hendrick earned the other outfield positions.
Second-team pitchers include Wheeling Central junior Adam Murray, Paden City senior Trey Slider and St. Marys senior Jack Hadley.
Four seniors make up the infield with Noah Beter (St. Joe), Trin Scott (Cameron), Nate Hanshew (Midland Trail) and Jordan Dempsey (Faytetteville).
Senior Eric Williams of Tolsia is the second-team catcher, while seniors Tim Thorn (Pendleton County), Elias Gordon (Notre Dame), junior Patrick Copen (Parkersburg Catholic) and sophomore Hayden Baldwin (Moorefield) round out the utility spots.