Atoms are small but can generate tremendous heat.
Ayden Hodges is Marshall University’s newest atom.
The St. Albans High School left-handed pitcher stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 143 pounds, but throws his fastball as hard as 89 mph. Hodges said he will bring his heater and assortment of other pitches to the Thundering Herd.
“I get to stay close to home,” Hodges said. “Marshall was my first offer and I committed.”
Hodges also drew strong interest from Penn State, Ohio University and Ball State.
“I like the environment at Marshall,” Hodges said. “It’s not too big and it’s not too small and they play in a great conference.”
The winning pitcher in the Class AAA state championship game, Hodges also throws a slider and a changeup to go along with a four-seam and two-seam fastball. He said he recently added a sinker that shows promise in generating ground balls.
Hodges, who counts fishing as his favorite off-field activity, said he hopes to touch 90 mph during his senior season. High school left-handers who reach the low 90s can be difficult to find, especially when they’re on the smaller side. Hodges, though, said velocity isn’t everything and that he is excited about his sinker to keep hitters off balance.
“I have worked really hard these last few years to get command down and getting my velocity up,” Hodges said.
Hodges teamed with senior Jake Carr, a West Virginia University recruit, to form a dynamic pitching combination at St. Albans. Hodges said he learned a great deal from Carr in regard to approaching hitters.
“Go after him,” Hodges said. “You can’t be afraid to go straight after a hitter and get ahead in the count.”
Marshall plans to open a new 3,500-seat stadium in 2021. Hodges said the allure of the new ball park was a factor in him choosing the school, where he will major in environmental science.
Hodges’ decision to commit two weeks after receiving an offer from the Herd was akin to getting a double-play ball in a close game.
“It took so much pressure off my shoulders,” Hodges said. “Now, I don’t have to think about it and I can just go out and play baseball.”
Hodges also plays the outfield for the Red Dragons, whom he hopes to help to a third state title in four seasons next spring.
“We’re going to go for it,” he said.
St. Albans coach Rick Whitman said Hodges has steadily improved into a NCAA Division I pitcher and has potential to be significantly better.
“Last year, he really started to come on and you could see he was pretty good,” Whitman said. “He has kept getting better and better. He has a really high ceiling.’’
Hodges was spectacular in St. Albans’ 5-0 victory over defending state champion Hurricane in the state title game, throwing 62/3 innings of one-hit ball.
Hodges finished the season 9-1 with a 0.66 ERA. He struck out 80 in 53 innings.