The Times West Virginian

Sports Central

June 15, 2008

Pickering leads all-state squad

Polar Bears’ Ice, Buonaiuto make Class AAA first team

NITRO — The Kanawha Valley enjoyed a banner year for high school baseball.

The Charleston area produced its third Class AAA state champion this decade, saw four of its big-school teams win 20 or more games and, as of Sunday, landed six players on the AAA all-state team selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.

At the center of the whirlwind of this spring’s success was Nitro senior Chase Pickering. The 6-3 left-hander, selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 2008 Major League Baseball first-year player draft, was named the first-team captain after leading his team to the school’s first state baseball championship.

“Sometimes you’re lucky enough to get a kid who offensively is as good as him,” said Nitro coach Steve Pritchard of Pickering. “Sometimes you get someone who can pitch like him. Those that do both things as well as Chase can do them are extremely rare.

“Players put together the kinds of stats he had in either pitching or hitting usually consider that to be a career year.”

Pickering, listed as a pitcher on the all-state list, led all vote-getters in statewide balloting while going 11-1 with 156 strikeouts and a 2.08 earned run average. His one-hit, five-inning 10-0 shutout of Martinsburg in the state semifinals put the Wildcats in the title game, where they blanked West Fairmont by the same score.

Nitro’s center fielder when not on the mound, Pickering hit .448 with 10 home runs and 48 RBIs. He stole 34 bases.

Initially projected to be selected within the first 15 rounds of the MLB draft, Pickering — a West Virginia University signee — wasn’t phased when he wasn’t chosen until the 43rd round.

“I can look at it like a good thing,” Pickering said after the draft. “It’s not for sure that I’m going to do anything at WVU, but I know I can go up there and get stronger and get better. It’ll really help me to become a better player and a better person.”

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