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Williamstown baseball ready for state tournament

Times file photo Williamstown’s Maxwell Molessa gets ready to fire to first base after fielding a ground ball during a high school baseball game earlier this season.

CHARLESTON — Two wins away.

The Williamstown Yellowjackets are that close to capturing a Class A state baseball championship.

After a hard-fought three-game series against Wheeling Central Catholic, the ‘Jackets turn their attention to the biggest obstacle in Class A’s final four teams. That distinction goes to No. 1 Moorefield (20-5). The two-word back-to-back champion Yellow Jackets ran through and swept South Harrison to maintain its tight grip on the No. 1 spot in the state, advancing to face Williamstown in the process. In addition, Moorefield enters the semifinal contest at 5 p.m. on Friday at Appalachian Power Park as winners of its last 13 games. The two-time defending champs didn’t get the chance to add a third title in 2020, so the two teams that took different paths are set to battle with a championship appearance on the line.

The winner of that 1-4 matchup advances to the Class A title game against the winner of No. 2 Charleston Catholic and No. 3 Man.

WHS’s path to the Capitol saw the team go through Region I en route to a 17-11 record. A combination of top pitching and more than timely hitting lifted head coach Levi Maxwell’s squad to new heights.

The first-year man has plenty of weapons at his disposal. When ace starting pitcher Leewood Molessa was unavailable in the series-deciding game 3, Chase Barkley stepped up to throw a complete game allowing only one walk in the 5-3 win.

A former state champion pitcher himself, Maxwell has plenty of guys who can take the mound at a moment’s notice. Williamstown’s big four of Molessa, Braydin Coleman (who pitched the entirety of game 2 against WCC), Barkley and senior Brady Ankrom are sure to be called on when needed. Alongside Molessa (who leads the team in every pitching category), Ankrom is also preparing big things for the end of his senior campaign. A common thread for WHS’s pitchers is the ability to consistently throw strikes. It’s what has kept the batters facing Molessa collectively below the Mendoza Line. It’s given opportunities to Luke Ankrom and Maxwell Molessa, as they join Coleman as underclassmen who can pitch when their numbers are called. That’s all a part of the plan, according to Maxwell.

“Our best matchup we feel like is that we’re going to throw Leewood against Moorefield, and then we’re going to go from there,” Maxwell said. “He definitely gives us a pretty good chance to win against a team like Moorefield. They’re very notorious for hitting the baseball very well. They have a back-to-back state championship presence. Leewood’s going to have a challenge, but I think he’s the best fit for that game.”

Following a loss to Charleston Catholic on May 10, the Yellowjackets found themselves sitting at 5-5 on the year. The hardships faced by the team in the early going tested everyone’s resolve. Maxwell says facing tough teams was by design, and now, it looks to have paid off in spades.

“It looked like we were off to a slow start, but down the road, once you get used to that kind of environment, it gives us a good opportunity to get on track at the right time,” he said

Offensive firepower is not in short supply for Williamstown, as it needs to match the output from head coach Wade Armentrout’s Yellow Jackets. Junior pitcher Karson Reed handily took care of South Harrison to clinch the Region II title, but he also got plenty of run support. He fanned seven and allowed a single run during the complete game victory, but a 17-1 final meant the game was never in doubt. Luckily for Maxwell, he has loads of confidence in his entire lineup. In terms of pure numbers, Williamstown was firing on all cylinders prior to its journey through Section I.

In addition to his sub-2 ERA on the mound, Molessa was also lighting up the batter’s box throughout the regular season. His .422 batting average is second on the team. The top regular season BA came via Brady Ankrom’s .446, and Maxwell Molessa’s freshman-year production saw him slashing the ball with a .409 batting average. That’s not all for the top hitters, as senior Trevor Powell hit .386 on the regular season. That much power in coach Maxwell’s top bats gives him plenty of confidence.

“With our 1-9 hitters, when we’re on our A-game, I like us against just about anybody,” he said. “It’s just a matter of executing and having timely hits with guys in scoring position. It’s all about having that approach as a hitter and getting the pitch you want to hit. Our guys are very disciplined, in that sense.”

Contact Josh Hughes at jhughes@newsandsentinel.com

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