CHARLESTON — If you were at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston on Friday afternoon or drove by the ballpark you might have heard a whiffing sound.
That sound was Wahama pitcher Phillip Hoffman striking out Man batters.
Hoffman fanned a whopping 18 batters and tossed a two-hitter as he led Wahama past the Man Hillbillies in a 3-0 victory in the Class A state baseball tournament.
The win moved Wahama (21-11) into Saturday afternoon’s state championship game where the White Falcons were scheduled to take on Wheeling Central. The Maroon Knights had a furious five-run, seventh inning rally to upend Pendleton County in Friday’s other Class A state semifinal.
For the Hilbillies, Man ended its baseball campaign at 12-18 and saw its Cinderella run to the state tournament come to an end.
The Billies, the 2014 Class A state champs and last year’s 7-0 loser to Wahama in last year’s Class A state finals, were making its third straight trip to the state tournament.
Change is coming next year for Man High School, which is leaving the Single-A ranks and is headed back up to Class AA ball for the first time since 2003.
Man simply could do nothing against Hoffman in Friday’s game.
The Wahama right-hander allowed a one-out triple by Kenny Jo Adkins in the bottom of the first inning and a leadoff single by catcher Tyler Blair in the second, then sat down the last 18 batters that he faced.
Hoffman struck out the side in the second after Blair’s single to left. He also fanned the side in the fifth and seventh innings.
Jake Adkins, Man’s senior left-hander, pitched very well for the Billies but got no run support and took the loss. Adkins allowed three runs on eight hits with nine strikeouts and one walk over seven innings of work.
After a scoreless tie through four innings, the White Falcons finally were able to break the deadlock in the top of the fifth with a pair of runs.
Ricky Kearns had a one-out, infield single. Colton Arrington then reached on a bunt single and both scored as Jared Nutter bunted and a throwing error was able to plate both runs.
Wahama added an insurance run in the sixth as Tyler Grimm doubled and his courtesy runner Jace Edwards scored on first baseman Jared Oliver’s sacrifice fly to left.
Hoffman, who entered with a 0.49 ERA, was very efficient as he threw 69 strikes on 87 pitches, relying almost exclusively on his fastball.
“I threw two curve balls and one change-up, and they hit the two curves,” he said MetroNews. “That’s the best my fastball has ever felt.”
Man coach Larry Vance said Hoffman (9-4) was just too tough to hit.
“His fastball had a little tail on hit,” Vance said. “You don’t see mid-80s in Single-A ball until you get here. So hats off to Philip Hoffman. He just wore us down and beat us to death with it.”
Wahama coach Tom Cullen said it was a great effort by his pitcher.
“Today, they weren’t catching up with him,” Cullen said. “So you just keep going with the gas and keep the foot on the throttle.”
For Jake Adkins, it was his swansong with the Hillbillies.
“Everybody expected a pitchers’ duel and that’s what it was,” Adkins told Metro News. “You get real frustrated when you think you have to be perfect to win the game, but I’m proud of our team. Three straight years getting here, you can’t ask for much more.”
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).