1-2-3: Mineral County LL is state bound
KEYSER - Martinsburg, Hedgesville, Jefferson, 1-2-3. With a sweep of the Berkeley County teams and then Jefferson County, Mineral County claimed the District Little League championship, spurring an automatic bid to the state tournament upcoming in Huntington, beginning June 15.
June 15 is the welcoming day. Actual game play begins June 16 and you play a game a day.
“We opened play against Martinsburg, winning 15-7. I think they only had two or three hits the entire game, but there were a couple walks, someone got hit by a pitch, and there were some silly errors made in the field, just because that was the first time the kids really got to play together,” Mineral County Little League 11u All-Stars coach Clint Kauffman stated.
“They were still trying to feel each other out in game speed. But, in the second game, they figured it out, so much so that we walloped Hedgesville 26-0 in just two innings in game two,” Kauffman explained.
In game three of District play came Jefferson, an area historically touted for great baseball all the way up through high school with the legendary Jefferson Cougars program.
According to Kauffman, “In the Jefferson game, we looked like a complete team. We defeated Jefferson 7-4. They were really sound, and they got runner-up, so we may see them again down at the state tournament.”
As a result of there not being enough area teams for an area tournament, Mineral County advanced straight to District play, and now from District play, as champions, will chase a state title at the state tournament.
Mineral County’s 11u squad is comprised of a group of kids who, despite their age, have a very solid amount of baseball experience. The 13 players play on their respective Mineral County Little League teams and then also play travel ball throughout the rest of the year.
“We have seven Wheelhouse Arsenal travel ball players and six Bobcat travel ball players on our team. The seven Arsenal boys I, along with Patrick Buck, have been able to coach them since we started an Arsenal team. Zack Mellott runs the Bobcat program. Zack and I have coached together before, so we are all familiar with each other,” Kauffman stated.
According to Kauffman, “As a result, these kids have played a lot of baseball. They’ve played a ton of baseball before. I definitely want to point out the influence of Shane Corwell and Aaron Laffey at Wheelhouse. By the Corwell’s building that complex, they’ve definitely helped grow these kids as baseball players. They’ve got a place to go now.”
“They love it. It’s insane how much they do love it. I pull in the driveway and Caleb is like ‘can we go to Wheelhouse?’ I say, ‘Don’t you want a break?’ The staff up there is great. Aaron is great with the kids. It’s so contagious, once the whole team buys into the system. I’m just tickled to death with it,” Kauffman explained.
The Mineral County Little League 11u All-Stars has a roster of 13 kids. Six of the kids are slated to be future Keyser Golden Tornado, three are slated to be future Frankfort Falcons, and four are nearby Maryland residents who joined Mineral County Little League last year when COVID caused the cancellation of leagues there.
The team is overseen and guided by coaches Clint Kauffman, Patrick Buck, Zack Mellott, and Scott Cameron.
The 13-player roster consists of Caleb Kauffman, Benji Mele, Braeden Laffey, Brayden Glass, Camden Larkin, Cole Holland, Dylan Blank, Liam Buck, Maddox Twigg, Mikey Mongold, Noland Mellott, River Cameron, and Ryan Krumpach.
When asked what makes the team so solid, Kauffman summed it up in a word, PITCHING.
“Pitching. Many of our players, they are pitchers. We have so many pitchers, and unlike a lot of teams, we’re not stuck with just that one guy,” Kauffman explained.
One such pitcher is Braeden Laffey, son of retired Major League Pitcher and current instructor at the Wheelhouse Academy, Aaron Laffey.
“Braeden has really broke through this year. He’s really taken it to the mound to where he can work a batter. He knows how to work counts in and out, and he’s just really developed. And the rest of them have learned how to throw balls other than a two-seam fastball right down the middle. The rest of them are learning how to throw curveballs and sliders and change-ups and such, it’s really helped,” Kauffman explained.
Pitching alone won’t completely win the game, though it certainly means less of an offensive output is needed. Mineral County has demonstrated thus far that there’s no shortage of offense on the squad as well. See 26 runs scored against Hedgesville in just two innings.
According to Kauffman, “They hit the ton out of the ball. Against Hedgesville, we were even telling our kids to swing at anything. They still were able to barrel everything up they got ahold of, even way outside the strike zone.”
One interesting part of the story is that head coach Clint Kauffman is really a football-guy turned baseball guy. After a terrific football career at Frankfort High School, Kauffman went on to play collegiately as a Falcon at Fairmont State, where he made a big impact on the defensive side of the ball. But for now, baseball is what’s on Kauffman’s brain.
“I tell you, it’s such an awesome privilege to be able to come back home and try and lead a local baseball team to a state title, because I’m a football guy. I played baseball up through my Hot Stove year, I didn’t play any baseball after that. I got talked into running track and ended up going that route,” Kauffman explained.
According to Kauffman, “For some reason, baseball was boring to me as a kid, but right now, I just love coaching it. Thanks to both of my kids.”
With Mineral County Little League, formerly known as Bi-State, there is a rich tradition of state tournament success, with one Mineral County Little League All-Stars squad winning a state tournament as recently as last season in Lewisburg.
What is the likelihood of this group having similar success?
“Very likely. I played Little League with Mike Orndorff, coach of that team, and I’ve been in constant contact with him. Mike has kind of been steering me and directing me in this All-Star thing. It would be great to represent Mineral County again down there with a solid performance so Mineral County can get recognized even more,” Kauffman explained.
According to Kauffman, “This group of kids, they didn’t do All-Stars for the age they were last year, so I think they’re a little bit hungry for it this year.”
Stay hungry and keep eating boys.