Greater Beckley Christian is familiar with the biblical story of David vs. Goliath.
Although the Crusaders won’t use a sling as their weapon of choice this week, they are hoping to strike enough blows with their bats to pull off a stunning upset of highly favored Charleston Catholic in the Class A Region 3 championship.
“It is definitely a David vs. Goliath situation, but there is a lot of confidence from our guys. That shouldn’t be an issue,” first year head coach Drew Walker said. “We have played some really tough games this year which has made the big games seem much slower for us.”
The regional champion will be determined in a best-of-three format. Game one will be played Monday in Charleston at the Shawnee Sports Complex at 6 p.m.
Game two is scheduled for Tuesday in Beckley. If game three is necessary, the deciding game will be back in Charleston Wednesday.
Although this is Walker’s first assignment as a high school head coach, he is familiar with what it takes to make a run to the state baseball tournament.
The first year skipper played for legendary coach Dave Shaw at Shady Spring in the early 2000’s and made three state tournament appearances as a player.
“It has been fun and a learning experience for me. I am a little different than some of the coaches they have had in the past. I am a little more laid back, but I get my point across and don’t let them get away with anything,” Walker said. “I know what school they go to and what the school is attempting to do with them academically. I am trying to do that on the field.”
A big part of Walker’s learning experience has been dealing with a limited roster.
“We have played with only nine players for the most part all year. Kash Hendrix is a freshman and he had never played baseball before this year at any level,” Walker said. “He plays in the outfield and is hitting about .200 now. It has been a challenge, but I have learned how to develop players.”
As if playing with a limited roster all season wasn’t tough enough, the Crusaders also lost a key player late in the year after he was deemed ineligible by the WVSSAC.
“When I came in as the coach it was only about a month before the season. Everything had already been turned in, the roster set and the schedule was set,” Walker said. “I didn’t know the background behind the player and I didn’t know there was an issue. In his defense, he was told he was fine to come. He had also been told that his former school would likely not have a baseball team after a coach retired. He was just looking for a place to play.”
Greater Beckley was able to weather the storm of roster disruption and win the Class A Region 3, Section 1 title in convincing fashion.
The Crusaders have five players hitting better than .300 and three hitting .400 or better.
Reece Patterson leads the team hitting .443 with 24 RBI. In 88 plate appearances, Patterson has only four strikeouts.
Eli Grubb is hitting .417, while Hunter Crist has a .400 average, with two home runs and leads the team in RBI with 30. Will Graham is hitting .371 with a 23 runs batted in and also has a pair of dingers.
“Reece is our junior catcher. He is a vocal leader for us. Will Graham is our senior leader and he has become more vocal talking before and after games about what we need to do,” Walker said. “Will got off to a slow start this year, but he has really picked it up the last 15 games and is hitting over .400 during that span.”
While the Irish have been the standard for Region 3 and own two regular season wins over Greater Beckley, Walker likes the chances for his team to pull off the stunner.
“Both games we played against them this year, I can recall every play in my head. They pitched the same pitcher, (Jonah DiCocco). He had 15 strikeouts when we played down there and we lost 5-3. It was like our fifth game of the year and we had more hits than them,” Walker said. “When we played them here, they pitched him again and we struckout 12 times. We lost 3-0, but we weren’t hitting then and now we are.”
“When he pitches against us it will be the third time we have seen him. We feel like we can hit the ball and our defense is way better than the last time we saw him. I think it will be interesting this time.”