CHARLESTON - As St. Albans prepared for its Class AAA Championship matchup with Hurricane on Sunday, senior leader Jake Carr knew exactly what junior pitcher Ayden Hodges was going through.
Hodges was just a little while from making his first-ever appearance at the state tournament against the defending state champions in front of a raucous crowd at Appalachian Power Park.
Needless to say, the situation could be a little nerve-wracking.
No one knows that better than Carr, who also pitched as a young player at the state tournament in the 2017 championship run for the Red Dragons.
That's why Carr - the WVU signee and reigning State Player of the Year - went to talk to his friend and pitching counterpart on Sunday.
"He's never pitched in the state tournament before, so I told him, 'Just throw strikes and don't be so amped up,'" Carr said. "I remember my sophomore year, I was amped up and I went three innings and Coach (Rick) Whitman was like, 'You're done' because I gave up six runs. I told him to soak it in, throw strikes and we'll support runs for you and we'll win. He trusted us."
Carr not only showed leadership with the talk, but he also backed it with his play, breaking a scoreless tie in the third with a triple to the right-field wall that gave the Red Dragons momentum and Hodges all the run-support needed to earn the title.
Hodges said Carr's RBI triple and subsequent run on a groundout was pivotal as the game hit its middle stages.
"110 percent, it boosted (my confidence) to another level," Hodges said.
While the goal - winning a title - is obviously the same from a team standpoint, the game also signaled two separate things from an individual standpoint for the two St. Albans standouts.
For Hodges, the game punctuated his arrival on the state level as his one-hit performance put the exclamation point on a year in which he went 9-1 with a 0.66 earned run average and 80 strikeouts in 53 innings.
Hodges said in addition to the title, the atmosphere is what he'll most remember about the game.
"If we're being honest, when you're pitching, you don't see (the crowd), but after a strikeout, you turn around and look, and it's insane," Hodges said. "It really makes you happy seeing all these people here for you. It's awesome."
For Carr, it is the culmination of a career in which he has won two state championships and the Kanawha Valley Player of the Year Award. Whitman added that he feels another accolade should be added before he empties his locker at St. Albans, too.
"That guy, if he's not Player of the Year, they ought to do away with the award," Whitman said. "That guy - pitching, hitting - the bigger the stage is, the bigger he's going to play. That's what those type of players do."
POWER IN WATTS: Moorefield's Blake Watts had one heck of a state tournament.
In two games, Watts went 5-for-6 with two doubles and seven RBIs to lead the Yellow Jackets to their second-straight Class A Championship.
If that wasn't enough, he also earned the win in relief after throwing four innings of shutout baseball in Sunday's 4-2 win over Charleston Catholic.
Fitting that the guy who was most electric for Moorefield was a guy with the last name Watts.
TWO-OUT MAGIC: The early stages of the Class A Championship between Charleston Catholic and Moorefield featured each team mirroring the other through two innings.
In each early frame, both teams used aggressive baserunning to get runners in scoring position before taking advantage with two-out hits that plated runs.
That type of execution is what helped land each team in the championship to begin with.
Moorefield won the Class A Championship, 4-2, on Sunday.
WASHINGTON NAMED ALL-TOURNEY: Huntington St. Joseph's Lenny Washington was named as a Class A All-Tournament selection for the Irish.
Washington had a double and pitched in the team's loss to eventual champion Moorefield in the Class A semis.
Moorefield and Charleston Catholic each placed four players on the all-tournament team.
The Yellow Jackets were represented by Isaac Van Meter, Hayden Baldwin, Blake Watts and Thomas Williams while Charleston Catholic had Marshall Pile, Will Strickland, Evan Sayre and Thomas Blaydes on the team.
Wheeling Central's Avery Lee was also named to the team.
Grant Traylor is a sports writer for The Herald-Dispatch. He can be reached by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 304-526-2759. Follow him on Twitter @GrantTraylor.