BECKLEY, W.Va. -- Pitching got West Virginia State and Concord into Saturday's West Virginia Conference baseball title game, but the Mountain Lion bats are what knocked out the Yellow Jackets.
Concord battered five West Virginia State pitchers to the tune of 14 hits, scored in six of eight innings and cruised to an 11-4 win in the league's final championship game, marking Concord's fifth baseball title in school history.
Both the Mountain Lions and Yellow Jackets had allowed just five runs each over their first three games of the tournament, riding pitching and timely hitting all the way to the championship game.
But on Saturday, Concord broke out on offense, and it was something Mountain Lions coach Andrew Wright had been anticipating.
"I've been waiting on that to happen this weekend," Wright said. "We're not used to winning games like that, and that's something we tried to focus on down the stretch, making sure we could win close games. Then to get here and have our offense work the way it has all year was comforting."
That support seemed to comfort Concord reliever Chris Baker, who tossed the final 41/3 innings without yielding a run as the Mountain Lions offense continued to roll.
But it all began with a lightning-fast start that saw Concord strike for five runs in the first two innings, chasing State starter Mike McClain after 12/3 innings and getting into a bullpen that couldn't slow down the Mountain Lions' momentum.
"We kind of wanted to get a feel of the game, and the first thing you know the feeling wasn't good," State coach Cal Bailey said. "They jumped on us early, and two or three years ago they did the same thing to our starter. We needed to come out with a little more urgency. They understood what was going on. I don't think we were fully expecting that."
Down 6-1, State was on the verge of recovering in a big way in the top of the fifth inning when Eric Craft, Cody Smith and Josh Kiser all reached to load the bases with none out.
Craft scored on Billy Smith's fielder's choice grounder to short (Cody Smith was retired at third) to cut the deficit to 6-2. After Kiser advanced to third on a wild pitch, he scored on Andrew Pickering's sacrifice fly. Tyler Payne then reached on a walk, prompting Wright to pull starting pitcher Devin Smith in favor of Baker.
Jack Hudson greeted Baker with an RBI double to cut the Concord lead to 6-4 and put runners on second and third base for Garrett Kiser, who represented the go-ahead run. Garrett Kiser crushed a pitch deep into the gap in right-center that looked like it might have gone out of the ballpark, but the strong yet fickle winds of Linda K. Epling Stadium turned it into a routine fly and ended the rally.
Despite getting a few more hits, State never really threatened again.
"Once we got to [Devin] Smith they brought Baker in and we tapped him around a bit but he settled down," Bailey said. "That was a combination of his stuff and us trying to do too much, trying to hit five-run home runs and that sort of thing."