Red Riders ready for next challenge

Weir High to face Frankfort in Region 1 Championship Series starting Tuesday

READY TO GO — Weir High’s Cody Tate gets ready to throw during a sectional contest May 7 at Oak Glen. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

WEIRTON — Outsiders might have been skeptical in March when Weir High baseball coach Jason Angle said in the preseason preview he was confident his 2018 Red Rider diamond edition would be capable of going out and competing. That was despite the fact he lost 10 players from the 2017 state Class AA runner up team to graduation.

Angle’s confidence has shown on the field as his 9-12 club rose from the fifth and last seed in Section 2 of Region 1 to take the title. It now faces Frankfort, the No. 4 ranked AA team in the state, in the Region 1 Championship beginning on Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the home field of the 21-4 Falcons. The Red Riders will host Frankfort on Wednesday in game two of the best-of-three. If needed, a third game will take place on Thursday back at Frankfort.

“They have really solid pitching,” Angle said of the Falcons. “We’ll have to work real hard against them. We’re looking forward to playing them. My guys want to win badly and get back to Charleston.”

The Red Riders began the 2018 season like they were an inexperienced bunch, losing 10 of their first 13 games. Like every other Ohio Valley team, the Red Riders were plagued with weather problems in the early going playing only one of 11 scheduled games in March and the first week of April.

But they began to put it together about the time the weather got better, getting their first win 3-2 over Edison. They defeated one of the better area pitchers, Tristan Haught.

“We came back three days later and beat a pretty good Ravenswood team in another one-run game,” Angle said. “It was good to begin playing four or five games a week rather than just practicing four or five days a week. We got 14 hits in that 10-9 win over Ravenswood.”

Angle returned just four letter winners from the final four team led by Chris Gillette, who got a walkoff hit to win the regional championship game in 2017 against Berkeley Springs.

Another of the wins that Angle feels helped his young club (he starts five sophomores) was a 2-1 win over Berkeley Springs on April 18 at Wild Things Park in Washington, Pa.

“Chris Gillette had an outstanding pitching performance in that game,” Angle said. “We beat them in the regional last year and they have just about everybody back. Those wins over some pretty good teams helped us to gel a little bit. They were confidence builders, but we have played well in most of our games. Even in the losses. Our offense was struggling early on but pitching was never an issue.”

The Red Riders have now won four in a row and six of the last nine games and oddly enough, when Angle was asked what initiated the late surge, he said an ugly 20-15 loss at home to Brooke — in what he termed the worst baseball game he ever was a part of — was the start of it.

“After that Brooke game we didn’t play very well in a loss to Indian Creek, but we played them over there the next day and scored 20 runs,” said Angle. “With the better weather and more at bats, we have hit the ball better and better and are scoring runs.

“The four-game win streak started with the city championship win over Madonna and I think that gave us some momentum going into the sectional tournament as the fifth seed.”

Angle feels that junior Tyler Komorowski is having an all-state year.

He leads the Red Riders with 58 innings pitched with a 1.68 earned run average. He has 61 strikeouts and only 13 walks.

Chris Gillette also has pitched well and Angle said he and the other three letter winners, senior Ryan Bodrog along with juniors Komorowski and Reid Hoover have become leaders of the team.

Chris Gillette’s brother, sophomore Elijah Gillette, leads the Red Riders offense with a lusty .443 average. Chris Gillette is batting .348 and Hoover is at .338. Komorowski has picked up offensively lately and is near .300, according to Angle.

“These kids play well together and enjoy being around each other. I can’t ask for anything more from them than what they are doing right now,” said Angle.