Beckley baseball head coach J.P. Stevens had one basic goal in mind for his first year as head man for the Flying Eagles.
“The first year was all about laying the foundation and bringing back a winning culture at Beckley. I think we did that going 23-8,” Stevens said. “There is no reason at Beckley that we shouldn’t win 20 games a year. That is always going to be the first goal. We had three kids named all-state which I don’t think has happened in a while here. They did a good job laying the foundation for us.”
That group of graduating seniors included Danny Dickenson and Logan Williams who will continue their careers at Bluefield State next season.
Dickenson hit .469 with 43 RBI, 10 doubles and a pair of long balls, while Williams hit .330, drove in 25 runs and hit three home runs.
The third player who earned all-state honors was pitching stalwart Micah Clay.
“When you lose three all-staters it’s going to hurt anybody, but at the same time, we were able to build depth all throughout the season,” Stevens said. “Now we are rolling into the summer and we aren’t skipping a beat. When you build a program, you have to build depth.”
Connor Mollohan, Blake Stratton, Chase Tolliver, Ty Evans all saw extended varsity time this past season and will be counted on heavily this coming season.
“Connor, Blake and Chase will have to carry a big load. Connor played well enough to be all-state in centerfield. Blake is all-state material at catcher,” Stevens said. “Ty Evans played left-field and hit .360 out of the nine-hole for us. He will be the new shortstop. Reid (Warden), Isaiah (Patterson) and Arri (Payne) on the mound gives us good pitching depth. That core group should put us in pretty good shape.”
Just like many other teams across the state, Beckley has a busy summer and fall planned on the diamond.
“They are lifting in the morning and running. Straight after that they are going to the fields to do throwing programs and hitting programs,” Stevens said. “They have about eight or nine travel ball tournaments scheduled which should be about 70 games. They will be doing that now until about October.”
Beckley’s first summer success was winning the championship at the Shady Spring Summer Classic.
The Flying Eagles dispatched Wyoming East (13-3), Oak Hill (11-0) and then Greater Beckley (3-0) in the title tilt.
Stratton hit a home run and drove in four runs against East, while Tolliver and Warden each had two hits and a pair of RBI.
In the five inning win over the Red Devils, Patterson pitched a gem, allowing just one hit and striking out 11 of the 15 outs recorded. Patterson was also named the tournament Most Valuable Player.
Blake Nixon did damage at the plate with two hits, including a double and had two RBI. Warden and Maddex Simms each hit a double as part of their two-hit day and Tolliver knocked in two runs.
Warden took the hill against Greater Beckley where he allowed only three hits, struckout 17 batters, while walking just two in his shutout victory.
However, Beckley only recorded five hits in the win over the Crusaders and if there is an area of concern for Stevens, hitting is where it is right now.
“I think the problem right now will be hitting the ball. Our pitching is fine and I think we will be better defensively,” Stevens said. “Replacing someone like Danny Dickenson at the plate is going to be tough. He was a kid that hit almost .500 out of the three-hole. He went 16 games without striking out and set the school record for RBI. You can’t just replace that, so we will be offensively challenged, but I feel like the pitching and defense will make up for it.”