Dynamic Players Set to Lead Silver Knights Teams
KIDWELL – Fifteen Tyler Consolidated seniors from the diamond to the smaller diamond and from the track to the field were prepared to suit up one more time as representatives of the Silver Knights in the final sports season of the 2019-20 school year.
According to every leader, all athletes brought the tools to all playing surfaces capable of guiding their respective clubs in a dynamic leadership capacity. COVID-19’s talent for rapidly causing problems on a global scale left everyone eagerly anticipating the continuation of these merely-glimpsed opportunities after all after school events were shut down in April. But, the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission’s announcement earlier this month then totally eliminated the possibility of any on-the-field closure.
For Tyler Consolidated baseball coach Robby Jones, this sudden cutoff led to a premature wave goodbye to Gage Huffman, Creed Ammons, and Braden Rine. As all three set the tone for practices and their performances of the day-in and day-out drills made the machine work they will be difficult to replace.
When it comes to Huffman, who is good enough to play and pitch at the next level, according to his coach, the legacy left behind is full of accolades. On top of his no-hitter last season, Jones’ praises of Huffman’s never- took-a-rep-off-attitude displayed from his time as a freshman to his final season factoring into a big part of Tyler’s team achievements showed exactly how much he meant to the Knights. “We won 45 games in three years and he was very important to our success,” said Jones. “He could cover ground in center field and hits mid 80s on the gun with his fastball. He just worked at his game and always got better.”
One of the defensive seven behind Huffman on days he was on the mound, Ammons brought a cannon to right field that if runners had chosen to test may have turned out to be a bad idea. His throw of a Ravenswood hitter’s foul ball foul territory to home plate to nab a runner last season was just a taste what was awaiting the opposition. “He really was our emotional leader who let his voice be known, too,” said Jones. “He was the guy who made sure the coaches’ expectations were being met by everyone on the team. He is a brilliant kid who will move on to do great things.”
Rine, who was locked in battle with a freshman for the starting third base spot, received similar praises. “He was a great kid and is also moving on to do special things,” said Jones.
Meanwhile on the field where the base paths are quite a bit shorter, TC softball coach Samantha Livingston watched five strong players walk out without a chance to show what they could do. This included taking hacks at some of the best pitching in the state with Class A Region I being home to St. Marys’ Mahala Nichols, Ritchie County’s Chloe Elliott, and Wheeling Central’s always formidable staff.
In fact, Madie DeVaughn slotting in as the Knights’ top pitcher left her as their foil during any potential matchup. Not only this, but every other pitcher on the team being a freshman meant that Livingston and company would have relied on her a lot. Big things were in the works for DeVaughn according to her head coach. The biggest sign of encouragement coming in DeVaughn’s handling a relatively powerful Parkersburg South lineup in the team’s only scrimmage only added to the hype.
Allie Miller (first baseman), Summer Miller (catcher), Cheyenne Jones (SS or 3B), and Hannah Jackson (2B) largely set up at the primary igniters at the plate of the Knights’ support of DeVaughn. Their high batting averages and senior experience brought the potential for hurt from the one through the five spots.
Defensively, each also manned a premium position, but there was little concern among the coaching staff.
“They really were ready to make this a great season,” said Livingston while talking about her players.
On the girls’ side of the track and field events, newly minted head coach Matt Bailey featured just two seniors in Rachel Hashman and Emma Padden.
“Rachel was versatile and would have run hurdles or did anything else she was able to. She was always so positive and a real leader,” said Bailey. “Padden constantly worked on her distance running and was a very reliable piece as far as workouts and races.”
No leader, however, said goodbye to a bigger group than boys track and field coach Adam Haywood. “We thought we could at least compete at the state level,” said Haywood as his seven seniors qualified in a number of events for last year’s state meet.
One of the best pure athletes the school has ever seen in Mark Rucker served as a sprints guy and a little bit of the long jump. Haywood also knew the WVU football preferred walk-on planned to bring his all to the team in whatever they needed him to do.
Zach Placer’s performance in the 110 hurdles last season put him in the mix for a shot at the 2020 title. “He was also going to lead our shuttle team,” said Haywood.
Jacob Sharp “had a chance to move up” in the state placers in the shot put. “He was really practicing this offseason and it is disappointing to not get to see what he could have done,” said Sharp. Garrett Littell and Skyler Winters joined their teammate in the throws.
Though Daniel Lantham only came out for track and field his junior year, he was already getting a hang of the pole vault. After making it to Charleston in year one, the expectation was for him to improve and head back to the state capital.
If there is a particular event Haywood eyed more than most though, it was probably because Elijah Day joined Placer among two others on a deep shuttle hurdle team. “It really helped because the guys were already in rhythm and each really could concentrate more on getting each other’s timing down and shave off those crucial tenths of seconds.”