Mineral County Little League All-Stars are back-to-back state champions
By Chapin Jewell
LEWISBURG, W.Va. - As the famed gaffe artist and athlete Yogi Berra was quoted as saying, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” For the second year in a row, a group of Mineral County Little League All-Stars return home from tournament play as the West Virginia Little League state champions.
The name is different, so too was the location of tournament of play. In fact, with the effect of the COVID-19 virus, things were in fact different this year. But, just as things were different, they were also very much the same. Especially the winning part, and not just the winning part, but the way in which this group of youngsters so positively represented their home of Mineral County.
Last year, as it had been for many years, the league name and thus team name was Bi-State. Last year, the state championship tournament was held in Shinnston. With the changing of the league name to Mineral County Little League in the off season, this season’s youngsters competed under the name Mineral County. The state championship this year was held in Lewisburg.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Like last year, the boys from Mineral County dominated the competition, not so much in the beginning, but definitely at the end. Saturday saw a close, come from behind, 11-10 victory over Fairmont. Sunday saw the other team, Ceroda-Kenova, come from behind to beat Mineral County 8-6.
After dropping into the elimination bracket of the double-elimination tournament, a fire was lit under Mineral County and there was no looking back. Over the next four games, including the state championship game, Mineral County outscored their opponents by a staggering 66 runs to 6, an average margin of victory of 15 runs per game.
Monday brought a 16-0 shutout of Boone Northern followed by a 16-1 throttling of Fairmont. Tuesday saw Mineral County crush Sophia by a tally of 19-1. On Wednesday, Mineral County avenged their earlier loss to Cerodo-Kenova by walloping the Wonders 15-3 in the state championship game. Jesus Perdew went the distance for Mineral County on the mound in the title contest.
After the state championship game, Mineral County coaches Brent Williamson and Mike Orndorff were quick to credit not just the play, but the overall behavior and manner with which the Mineral County boys represented themselves and everybody back home.
For Williamson, this is his first appearance as a manager in an all-start tournament. What a way to make your debut. For Orndorff, this is the second go round, as he managed Bi-State a year ago in their state championship season.
“It feels great. It’s my first time actually coaching in a tournament, and to become state champs the first time around, it doesn’t get any better than that. I tell you, this group of kids are awesome, and Coach Orndorff helped me out, it’s just an all-around awesome feeling,” a satisfied Williamson said after the tournament.
As Williamson explained, Mineral County showed resiliency, and the ability to battle back when the chips were down. Once they got the momentum going, in the last four games they were literally unstoppable.
“Against Fairmont, we went in a hole. We were down 5-0 but we battled back, you could see it in the kids, the momentum shifted. We got that win and came back out and got beat by this ball club (Cerod0-Kenova),” Williamson stated. “We had a lot of errors in that game. We had base running errors, mental errors, it wasn’t Mineral County baseball. But we continued through the adversity, came back out, and we showed them what Mineral County baseball was about and got the win.”
In the state championship game against Cerodo-Kenova, the Wonders scored first, but Mineral County responded to take the lead. For a stretch, however, a few errors in a row left room for CK to slip back into the game. It was at that point that Williamson called a huddle to calm things down.
“At any point, any coach is going to worry a little bit. But we brought them all to the center of the field out on the mound, got them all calmed back down, and let them know where we were at. We told them just to settle down, make good plays, make good throws, and we’ll get out of this thing. And, they settled down and that’s what we did,” Williamson explained.
As Orndorff explained, the whole tournament, but especially in the title game in particular, everyone contributed, from the top to the bottom of the order offensively.
“Today, the key to our offense was the bottom of our order. Today, the bottom of our order hit balls hard and drove in some of these guys in the middle of the order. We haven’t had that the last couple of times, and so it was big,” Orndorff stated. “The bottom of our order came up big today. Everyone contributed all through this tournament with pitching, fielding, defense, offense, everybody had a moment somewhere, if not multiple moments.”
While Mineral County put up huge numbers offensively throughout the tournament, averaging 14 runs per game to be exact, the hometown boys also collectively got the job done on the mound.
According to Orndorff, “The pitching went the way we wanted it too. Lanson (Orndorff) pitched that Fairmont game and we got through that. We knew what we had left and how to use it. We had to get through that Monday, and once we got through Boone Northern and Fairmont the second time, it was pretty impressive.”
As Orndorff, explains, there was never a doubt in his mind that Jesus Perdew could get the job done in the title game, even if it meant going the distance.
“I knew Jesus could go the whole game. The way he pitched last night, we knew he could come in and throw 20 pitches and then come in and pitch the next day. So, we let him go in and throw 20. The way he threw out here last night, we knew that if he came out even half like that, we were going to be fine,” Orndorff explained.
The play on the field was impressive, but equally as impressive was the way the team of all-stars gelled into a true team, coupled with the fact that their behavior, demeanor, and the way they conducted themselves made them great ambassadors for Mineral County. It was a story much like Bi-State’s historic run a year ago.
According to Orndorff, “It’s a little different because of the group of kids. The core group was here, but we were missing a couple of kids from last year that we wish would have been here this year. But, this group got together and kind of reminded me of that group with how quick they got together and stayed together. They eat dinner together almost every night, the chemistry was really there. That was very similar and that’s a big part of this.”
“When they are comfortable with each other, and comfortable with each other in different situations, things like this happen. Like last year, these guys were great representatives of Mineral County. Off the field, we got compliments in hotels, we’d get compliments in restaurants, telling us our guys were well behaved. Again, they represented Mineral County well,” Orndorff stated.
After the game, each of the 11 players on the Mineral County roster were asked how it felt to be a state champion, and to give any thoughts on the overall experience. Their responses follow:
Jesus Perdew: “It feels good. It’s real exciting. I got my first home run in all-stars. I’ve been waiting for a home run in all-stars and I finally got it.”
Landon Catlett: “It feels great. I was really nervous coming into today but the whole experience has been really fun.”
Jaxon Hare: “It feels pretty good, especially how we bounced back from the loser’s bracket. This team was really good but the first time they beat us we left some runners on. We could have scored more the first game, but we bounced back and beat them today.”
Cade Bauer: “It feels great. It’s been fun actually, I like my teammates, I like my coaches, it’s been a lot of fun.”
Jeremiah Babo: “I loved my home run. It was a really fun experience down here and I want to come back next year. It feels really good after we made it to the state championship out of the loser’s bracket after losing to them once.”
Lanson Orndorff: “It feels amazing to be a two-time state champ. I couldn’t have done it without everybody on the team over here. They got on base and I was able to drive them in. I feel wonderful about that. I had two home runs down here, two big ones.”
Carson Feaster: “It feels good. After we lost to these guys first I didn’t think this was going to happen. It feels great.”
Braylon McGreevy: “It feels good. My team got the job done. I’ve had a lot of fun down here.”
Blake “Jake” Jacobs: “It feels great. It feels even better than last year. It’s better because we did it with a new team, and it was just a lot of fun.”
Lucas Williamson: “It feels pretty good. I had some ideas this was going to happen.”
Korbin McKenzie: “I had a lot of fun. It was a great experience. I actually got to hit my first home run. Winning a state championship makes it even better.”
Last year’s Bi-State run was historic, not just because they won our area’s first state championship, but because they were able to then advance to the Little League regional tournament in Greenville, North Carolina. This year, unfortunately for the Mineral County Little League All-Stars, there is not a regional tournament being held to advance to.
Their run, however, remains equally historic. In a year where nobody was even sure if Little League would be held, the Board of Directors of Mineral County Little League opted to have a season. By all accounts, that season was a success, and for the icing on the cake to be a state championship for the Mineral County Little League All-Stars, you couldn’t write a better script.