MORGANTOWN — As Morgantown High’s starting shortstop, top hitter and closer, senior Ryan Fluharty was called upon a lot this season. The senior answered the call every time, too, leading the team with a .442 batting average, 59 fielding assists and a 0.68 ERA.
It’s ironic then that Fluharty almost missed the most important call of the year.
“I had just come down to Rock Hill (S.C.) for my summer season; I woke up at probably 9:30 a.m. and I had like 25 missed calls from my mom,” Fluharty said. “She asked if I had been on my phone and she said to go check Twitter out.”
What Fluharty saw when he finally checked his phone was that he had been named the 2023 Gatorade West Virginia Baseball Player of the Year.
“It was a mix of shock and I was very happy,” he said of his reaction. “It’s been something I’ve been working for.”
To say that Fluharty was an impact player for the Mohigans this season would be an understatement. Offensively, he led MHS in hits (38), RBI (45), doubles (16), home runs (6) and runs (42). On the mound, Fluharty recorded four saves with a 0.69 ERA in 20 2/3 innings with 19 strikeouts.
“He had an outstanding year,” MHS coach Pat Sherald said. “He really stepped up for us hitting in the middle of the lineup, was great with runners in scoring position, just a good all-around offensive campaign. On the mound, we put him in the high-intensity, high-leverage inning opportunities. He just executed all around for us.”
Fluharty, arguably, took on the most important role in all phases of the game for Morgantown. He played shortstop, one of the toughest defensive positions, hit in the middle of the lineup and served as the team’s closer.
“He handled it superbly,” Sherald said. “It’s hard, you’re trying to make plays defensively, you’re trying to have quality at-bats throughout the game and then you’ve got to be ready to go at a minute’s notice to enter the game and close it down.”
Wearing so many hats meant that Fluharty had basically no downtime during games.
“Every game I know there’s a possibility I could go in to pitch,” he said. “Between every inning, I had to take my throwing seriously because I never knew when Coach Sherald was going to put me on the bump. … You have to have a hard focus and a soft focus. Really take time between every pitch and let yourself relax. You can’t always be tensed up during a game.”
Fluharty is signed to play ball at the University of South Carolina Upstate next year, where he will be a full-time position player. Fluharty said he is excited to just focus on hitting in the future, but he enjoyed how much of an impact playing both ways allowed him to have on the game.
“We’d come in and I’d most likely be up to hit or having to stay in the field or come in to pitch,” he said. “I was always doing something to help the team win.
“Baseball is more of an individual than a team sport — it’s not like in basketball (where) I could go out and score a lot of points. I can go out and get a hit, hit a double or go on the mound and help my team.”
The Gatorade Player of the Year award is not given solely on athletics success — it also takes into consideration Fluharty’s 3.77 GPA and various community service. Winning the state award also makes Fluharty a finalist for the Gatorade National Player of the Year award.
“I’m extremely proud of him and I’m extremely proud he can represent Morgantown High School,” Sherald said. “He did it in every phase of the game.”