MORGANTOWN — Catcher Caleb Taylor likes to joke that he sees all of the pitches to hit sitting in the third spot of the Morgantown High lineup with the presence of third baseman Devon Neal standing behind him as the cleanup hitter.
“I see the pitches and he gets walked,” Taylor said, jokingly. “It feels great, though, to have him back there because one of us is gonna hit the ball — they just have to pick who they want to throw to.”
The duo in the heart of the Mohigans’ order is off to a roaring start this season. MHS (3-1), which came in at No. 6 in the first MetroNews power rankings for Class AAA, is averaging 12.8 runs per game, including a 22-0 win over John Marshall to open the slate. It also beat Fairmont Senior on March 19 and split a doubleheader at Jefferson last Saturday.
While it’s been a collective effort by the team so far, the power numbers have come from Taylor and Neal. Taylor had three home runs, including one in each of the last three games. He’s also collected a double on nine hits and driven in eight runs. Neal has five hits, including two doubles and a homer with six RBIs, but has walked seven times. Both have also combined to score 13 runs.
“I feel it, but you have to take it as a compliment and move on,” Neal, a senior, said. “It’s not always about your own stats. You have to do what’s best for the name across your chest and the people in the dugout with the same jersey on.”
Taylor, at 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds himself, thinks Neal’s size of 6-foot-4 and 289 pounds at the plate can be intimidating to opposing pitchers.
“Lately, he hasn’t been seeing pitches because he’s behind me and they don’t want to throw to the 4-hitter and also because of his size,” Taylor said.
Taylor, also a senior, usually sits in the third spot, but Neal doesn’t believe it matters who is batting where. If it were him batting ahead of Taylor, he’d be the one seeing more pitches.
“Either way, if you flip us in the lineup, you’re getting a one-two punch,” Neal said. “I’d put our batting lineup against anyone in the state without a doubt. So that’s fine, pitch around me, but just remember, we have other threats in the lineup besides Caleb and me.”
Center fielder Colton Matthews and first baseman Gavin Cottle have experience behind Taylor and Neal. Shortstop Quintin Smith is a four-year starter and provides speed and contact at the top of the order, while junior left fielder Carter Patrick is hitting second.
Junior Charlie Kerzak also spends a lot of time behind the plate at catcher when he isn’t on the mound. Sophomore right fielder Ethan Smith rounds out the order, while Preston Fox, Zachary Owens and Preston Brock will provide quality depth.
On the mound, Matthews may be the Mohigans most veteran pitcher, but Charles Petty is proving his worth. He’s allowed just one earned run in 6 2/3 innings this season. Patrick also pitched six innings and allowed one run with six strikeouts in Saturday’s win over Jefferson.
“I think we have a real good shot at doing damage in the state tournament, bit with that being said, we have a lot of games before we can get to that point,” Neal said. “We have to take every game serious, no matter who’s on the other side to get where we want to be.”
The Mohigans will play a makeup game at 5 p.m. today at Wheeling Park.