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Patriots’ Cole Cunningham captains Class AA All-State baseball team

The cream always rises to the top.

That was clearly the case in the battle for the Class AA state baseball title in 2024.

Of the 18 players honored with a first-team all-state selection this season, nine graced the turf at Go-Mart Park for the state tournament.

When the proverbial dust cleared on the final Saturday afternoon of the season, it was Frankfort that hoisted the championship trophy for the first time since 1988 with a win over Independence.

Pitching and defense were a huge key to the historic run for the boys from Mineral County with Cam Lynch and Lanson Orndorff leading the way.

The state tournament performance was the icing on the cake for the dynamic duo who both earned first-team all-state honors from the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.

In the Falcons’ semifinal win Friday afternoon over Herbert Hoover, which needed an extra frame to decide a winner, Orndorff was masterful allowing one hit and just one unearned run to keep Herbert Hoover at bay.

Removed only because of the pitch-count limitations, Orndorff gave way to Lynch, who recorded the final two outs of the inning, setting the table for a dramatic 2-1 walk-off win in the bottom of the eighth.

In the championship game against Independence, Lynch picked up where he left off Friday. 

Hurling a three-hit shutout and turning in two incredible defensive plays along the way, the Falcon senior needed only 88 pitches to record the historic win.

“He just threw a lot of strikes today,” Independence head coach Scott Cuthbert said about Lynch’s performance. “I thought he filled the strike zone up. I looked up and he could have thrown about 14 innings today with his pitch count.”

Playing a rugged schedule for a double-A school, both pitchers made 12 appearances with Lynch recording a 6-2 record and Orndorff going 7-3 on the year. 

Both standouts were equally effective at the plate. Lynch hit .438 with 39 hits, 37 RBI and four home runs, while Orndorff batted .427 with 44 hits, 25 RBI and 13 doubles.

The run to the title game capped a magical season for Independence, which started the season with only four returning players.

Three of the key players were junior Cole Cunningham, senior newcomer Blake Stratton and freshman Degan Williams, all of whom joined Lynch and Orndorff as first-team all-staters.

Cunningham, who was named the first-team captain, was a dual threat on the mound and in the batter’s box.

The big lefty picked up the win against No. 1 seed Winfield in the state tournament semifinal game to cap a 6-0 season. At the dish, Cunningham hit .421 with 45 hits, including seven home runs.

In the sectional opener against defending-regional-champion Shady Spring, Cunningham pitched a three-hit shutout and tripled home the only run of the game in a 1-0 triumph for the Patriots.

“That’s awesome. I worked hard for this,” Cunningham said about being named team captain. “This is a really big honor and I really appreciate it.”

Stratton came to Coal City for his senior year after playing three years at Beckley. Coming off a knee injury, Stratton was the missing piece to the Indy puzzle.

“It was a big piece. If he doesn’t come over, we are looking at most likely catching a freshman back there,” Cuthbert said. “No matter how good they are, that is a big key position for us. The catcher is sorta like our quarterback. Even with the offensive production, he has been one of the top hitters in the lineup.”

Along with being a defensive stalwart, Stratton shined in the hitting department batting .438 with 42 hits including seven doubles, three triples and one home run.

Williams hit behind Stratton and Cunningham, giving the Patriots a lethal trio for opposing pitchers to face.

Extremely effective late in the year and during the postseason, Williams hit .496 with 46 hits and 32 RBI in his first year in the Patriot uniform.

Winfield and Herbert Hoover both had two first-team selections.

Senior utility player Karson Frye and sophomore hurler Blake Withrow represent the Generals, while senior infielder Colin Lindsay and sophomore utility standout Tristan Harless represent the Huskies.

Lindsay paced Hoover with 34 RBI on the year and 15 extra-base hits. Harless was second on the team in hits, while compiling a 6-3 record on the mound with a 2.40 ERA.

Leading up to the state tournament, Frye compiled a 5-1 record with 88 strikeouts in 42 innings of work. At the dish, Frye had 27 RBI, five home runs and stole 22 bases.

Withrow had an outstanding season as well with an 8-0 record and a 0.63 ERA. The smooth-throwing lefty had 70 strikeouts in 55 innings.

PikeView freshman fireballer Eli Hilling and Sammy Viani from Fairmont Senior round out the first team pitchers.

Hilling set a school record this year with 145 strikeouts and had a 1.91 ERA. Viani was 8-2 in 12 appearances with a 2.32 ERA and 92 strikeouts.

Tyler Sisson from Philip Barbour joins Stratton as the other first-team catcher after hitting .430 in his junior season. Sisson tallied 40 hits, 28 RBI and had four home runs.

Keyser seniors Noah Broadwater and Evan Jenkins close out their careers with first-team all-state honors, as does Shady Spring senior Jacob Meadows.

Meadows, who was the double-A first team captain last year, had one of the best seasons of his career leading a very-young-and-inexperienced Tiger squad. The Glenville State signee hit .490 with 48 hits in 33 games and had 39 stolen bases.

Senior Danny Raddish from East Fairmont completes the all-state selections on the infield, joining Lindsay, Lynch and Broadwater.

Sissonville junior Eli Simonton and Liberty-Harrison sophomore Cooper Floyd  are first-team outfielders along with Williams and Meadows.

All-State honorees can obtain state-shaped, wood plaques with name, school, year and honor at wvswa.org or bearwoodcompany.com.

By Rusty Udy/Lootpress

The Class AA All-State Baseball Team as Selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.

First Team
P – Eli Hilling, PikeView, Fr.
P – Lanson Orndorf, Frankfort, Soph.
P – Blake Withrow, Winfield, Soph.
P -Sammy Viani, Fairmont Sr., Sr.
C – Blake Stratton, Independence, Sr.
C – Tyler Sisson, Philip Barbour, Jr.
INF – Colin Lindsay, Herbert Hoover, Sr.
INF – Cam Lynch, Frankfort, Sr.
INF – Noah Broadwater, Keyser, Sr.
INF – Danny Raddish, East Fairmont, Sr.
OF – Jacob Meadows, Shady Spring, Sr.
OF – Eli Simonton, Sissonville, Jr.
OF – Degan Williams, Independence, Fr.
OF – Cooper Floyd, Liberty Harrison, Soph.
U – Cole Cunningham, Independence, Jr. (captain)
U – Karson Frye, Winfield, Sr.
U – Tristan Harless, Herbert Hoover, Soph.
U – Evan Jenkins, Keyser, Sr.

Second Team
P – Owen Music, East Fairmont, Soph.
P – Cole Brown, Nicholas County, Sr.
P – Albert Gonzales, Philip Barbour, Sr.
P – Jared Miller, Winfield, Fr.
C – Grayson Kesterson, Nicholas County, Sr.
C – Tristen Portz, Sissonville, Sr.
INF – Blake Jacobs, Frankfort, Soph.
INF – Ira Mylott, Nicholas County, Jr.
INF – Logan Prater, Wayne, Fr.
INF – Cam Peschl, Fairmont Senior, Jr.
OF – Noah Sears, Lincoln, Sr.
OF – Preston Kieffer, Winfield, Jr.
OF – Joey Aman, Lewis County, Sr.
OF – Landon Wyatt, PikeView, Fr.
U – Trenton Hunt, Lewis County, Sr. (captain)
U – Xavier Hensley, Winfield, Fr.
U – Zach Hunt, Wyoming East, Jr.
U – Kadien Vance, Westside, Jr.

Honorable Mention
Adam Baisden, Logan; Levi Barnett, Independence; Luke Blankenship, Logan; Caleb Burns, Nicholas County Brayden Carder, Lewis County; Landyn Carpenter, Philip Barbour; Preston Cole, Oak Glen; Trey Cook, Weir; Cam Cumpston, Roane County; Saverio Destito, Robert C. Byrd; Kedron Elkins, Scott; Ian Graffius, East Fairmont; Landon Hall, Liberty-Raleigh; Luke Knight, Scott; Jaeden Lester, Westside; Isaac Lough, Grafton;  Sammy Lyle, PikeView; Ivan Miller, Logan; Ryan Mills, Wyoming East; Jake Nething, Frankfort; Micah Osborne, Clay County; Dylan Ours, Fairmont Senior;  Bryson Redmond, Bluefield; Davis Rockness, Bluefield; Mikan Smyth, Wyoming East; Talan Thompson, Chapmanville; Jared Vestal, PikeView; Seth Warner, Braxton County; Louden White, Scott; Brylan Williamson, Point Pleasant; Kale Wolfe, Philip Barbour.

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