CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Being part of a state championship is very special in itself.
Knowing you’ll never lose another high school game in your life is something entirely different.
Wahama seniors Jared Nutter, Ryan Thomas, Mason Hicks, Ian Hook, Tyler Grimm and Ricky Kearns are living the rarest of dreams after ending their collective prep careers Saturday with a 5-4 victory over Wheeling Central Catholic in the 2016 Class A baseball state final at Appalachian Power Park in Kanawha County.
These half-dozen recent WHS graduates have been involved in the White Falcon baseball program since their junior high years, and each has had a varying role with the varsity program over the last four seasons. The sacrifices and hard work, however, paid off in a big way — and that was even before Saturday’s victory.
Since the spring of 2013, the White Falcons have claimed four consecutive Section 4, Region 3 titles, three straight TVC Hocking crowns, the program’s second consecutive regional championship, and now they have repeated as Class A state champions
So now, after all of the hard work and sacrifice to reach such a pinnacle, these six proud Wahama graduates head out into the world already perched high atop the mountain.
“We’ve put in the work from day one and it’s been a total team effort, from the players to the coaches to the community,” Grimm said following Saturday’s title. “Ultimately, all the hard work paid off in the end … and it’s a really special feeling to once again end the season on top.”
For some, Saturday was simply a final feather in the cap in an otherwise fairy-tale prep career.
“My first semester of high school, I came in and was part of a state championship in football. My last semester as a high school student has also resulted in a state championship. There was even another state championship in baseball in between,” Nutter said. “It won’t be too hard to look back on my high school career and have the same sort of smile that I have right now.”
For others, it was about proving something to a lot of nay-sayers throughout the Mountain State — particularly after losing four starters from the 2015 Class A title team.
“This is such an awesome feeling to do it again, mainly because of what we lost from last year’s team,” Thomas said. “Not many people thought we could do this again, but here we are celebrating another state title. It feels good to prove a lot of people wrong.”
Heck, even some of the most die-hard believers in Wahama’s chances to repeat still needed a moment to realize that the ultimate goal had become reality.
“It’s very hard to describe this feeling, outside of it being amazing,” Hook said. “All of the work and everything that we’ve had to do to get to this point, it just feels really good to have it all work out in our favor. We all knew that this was possible at the beginning of the year and we believed that we could do it, but it is still hard to believe that we actually pulled it off again.”
A third of the seniors couldn’t help but reflect on how fortunate they were to have been part of something special, and they weren’t referencing the back-to-back state crowns. Instead, the blessed feeling that each shared had more to do with the place that they call home.
“Our community is a living thing in itself,” Kearns said. “Everybody comes from all around to watch us for one game, and there just aren’t too many communities that can honestly say that. It’s been special that we have had that kind of support in every game this year and in our careers. I’m just glad that they get to enjoy this one as much as we do, because they deserve this.”
Hicks — who served as the winning pitcher in both the 2015 and 2016 championship games — agreed whole-heartedly with his left fielder.
“This community deserves this because the support we have had is second to none,” Hicks said. “It feels great to be part of history in winning back-to-back titles, but I want to thank all of the people in the Bend Area for all of their support during each of these championship runs. Everyone associated with Wahama has played a big part in each of these titles.”
The White Falcons will lose five starters to graduation headed into the 2017 campaign.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.