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North Marion ‘Pulls The Sled’ to the state baseball tournament for the first time

RACHEL, W.Va. — For the first time in the 41-year history of North Marion High School, the Huskies are bound for the state baseball tournament. North defeated Frankfort 9-1 Wednesday afternoon to secure the Class AA Region I championship.

“I am so proud to be their coach. And I am so proud of them. They deserve all the credit,” said North Marion head coach Vic Seccuro.

The Huskies (19-8) were seeded fourth in their five-team sectional tournament. However, they have won all six of their postseason games. That run included lengthy road trips to both panhandles.

“We went three times (to the northern panhandle) for the sectionals. Then we had to go twice to Frankfort because we had the suspended game. That’s hard on you. I don’t know how hard it was on them but it was really hard on me.”

North Marion scored three runs in the first inning to supply them with all the offense they would need. The Huskies added one run in the third, three in the fourth and two more in the fifth.

Senior Jace Rinehart tossed a two-hitter for the Huskies. He did not walk a batter and struck out six.

“He seemed to be in control. He knew what he was doing out there,” Seccuro said. “I have seen him throw a little bit harder, believe it or not. He didn’t seem to be throwing that hard today but he got the job done and kept them off balance.”

Rinehart also went 3-for-3 at the plate with a pair of RBI. Cole Malnick had a pair of hits.

Frankfort’s (12-12) lone run came in the sixth on a solo home run from Andrew Lynch.

Herbert Hoover and Logan also qualified for the Class AA state tournament field Wednesday. Independence and Bluefield will play the decisive game of their regional Thursday.

“I knew these kids were special. From the get go, we told them that you can get there. If you don’t be your worst enemy, you can get there. They have proven that all year, in sectionals and right now too.”

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Marsh warns of delta strain, stresses vaccination importance as active cases decrease

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — While active coronavirus cases in West Virginia continue to decrease, the state’s leading coronavirus official says efforts to vaccinate West Virginians need to continue being as strong as ever.

Comments from state coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh on Wednesday’s “MetroNews Talkline” followed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s classification of the delta strain as a “variant of concern.” The delta variant was first detected in India, and health officials describe the strain as having increased transmissibility and a higher risk of serious illness.

“That is going to become the most common variant in the United States in the next two to three weeks is the projection,” Marsh said. “Although we’ve seen only a very limited number of cases of the delta variant in West Virginia, it is coming.”

The state Department of Health and Human Resources reported Wednesday 2,673 active coronavirus cases in West Virginia. More than 955,000 West Virginians — 61.4% of West Virginians 12 years older and older — have received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose.

Marsh said one vaccine dose will not be enough to protect people from the new strain.

“We’re approaching a yellow light,” Marsh said. “A yellow light is the risk of the new variant coming to West Virginia.”

Marsh noted herd immunity is ideal — in which at least 75% of West Virginians get vaccinated — but not a realistic situation.

“The reason why is because even though the vaccines are continuously being tested in younger and younger Americans so that we can continue to include more of our citizens in the eligible population, we know that for now, we can only vaccinate children 7 and older with the Pfizer vaccine,” he said.

“We also know there is a balance between the immunity that people have from being vaccinated, which will start to wane in some people, we believe, and that’s the reason why we’re projecting that in a year or so, we’ll recommend boosters for people to take to upgrade their immune function in case they become exposed to COVID-19 or become infected with it, but we also know that relates to the form of the variants.”

Sunday will mark the end of the statewide mask mandate, in which the state is hosting a celebration at the state Capitol to simultaneously mark West Virginia Day. Gov. Jim Justice will also announce the first winners of the “Do it for Babydog” vaccination lottery on Sunday, in which prizes include $1 million, custom trucks, four-year scholarships to any public university in West Virginia, and lifetime hunting and fishing licenses.

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State softball tournament pairings & schedule

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — 12 teams have advanced to the WVSSAC State Softball Tournament, which will be played at Little Creek Park in South Charleston from June 22-23. The tournament will use a double elimination format and opening round matchups are predetermined on an annual rotation of regional champions.

Class AAA (All games at Rock Field B)

Tuesday, June 22:

Game 1 – John Marshall (21-5-3) vs. St. Albans (30-1) – 9:45 a.m.

Game 2 – Washington (25-3) vs. Cabell Midland (27-9) – 30 minutes after Game 1

Game 3 – Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2 – 4:45 p.m.

Game 4 – Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2 – 30 minutes after Game 3

Wednesday, June 23:

Game 5 – Winner of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4 – 9:30 a.m.

Game 6 – Championship, 2:15 p.m.

 

Class AA (All games at Rock Field A)

Tuesday, June 22:

Game 1 – Oak Glen (28-1) vs. Independence (22-14) – 9:45 a.m.

Game 2 – Herbert Hoover (24-3) vs. Sissonville (19-4) – 30 minutes after Game 1

Game 3 – Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2 – 4:45 p.m.

Game 4 – Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2 – 30 minutes after Game 3

Wednesday, June 23:

Game 5 – Winner of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4 – 9:45 a.m.

Game 6 – Championship, 2:15 p.m.

 

Class A (All games at Craft Field)

Tuesday, June 22:

Game 1 – Ritchie County (21-5) vs. Midland Trail (20-4) – 9:30 a.m.

Game 2 – Petersburg (21-5) vs. Wahama (24-0) – 30 minutes after Game 1

Game 3 – Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2 – 4:30 p.m.

Game 4 – Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2 – 30 minutes after Game 3

Wednesday, June 23:

Game 5 – Winner of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4 – 9:30 a.m.

Game 6 – Championship, 2 p.m.

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Three Guys Before The Game – A Visit With Kevin Pittsnogle (Episode 292)

Chances are you haven’t heard from him lately, but please know that Kevin Pittsnogle is comfortable and happy. 

The West Virginia University icon has fond memories of his record-setting career as a Mountaineer basketball player, but chooses to devote his attention on the future much more than the past.

The center with guard-skills that became a nationally known phenomenon graciously declines interview requests.   In the new world of athlete brand-building, Kevin Pittsnogle would rather be “brand-less.”

In this rare interview, Pittsnogle looks back at his evolution as a player and his current role of special education teacher and basketball coach.

Take a listen down basketball memory lane with one of the West Virginia’s all-time greats.

Three Guys Before The Game is brought to you by Burdette Camping Center and WV Game Changer  Don’t forget to check out Three Guys merchandise.

Never miss an episode, subscribe below.

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Judge orders Morgantown, firefighters union back to mediation

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Monongalia County Circuit Court Judge Phillip Gaujot has ordered the City of Morgantown and members of the International Association of Firefighters Local 313 back to mediation over the holiday pay dispute.

Gaujot ordered the move following a hearing Wednesday hearing. The two sides did tell the judge they were close to a settlement.

More than 50 Morgantown union firefighters filed a lawsuit in June 2019 alleging they had been paid for 12 hours of holiday pay when they worked a 24-hour shift.

According to state code, if a firefighter works on a legal holiday, or if the holiday falls on the firefighter’s day off, the firefighter is entitled to equivalent time off on another day or pay at time-and-a-half.

Morgantown city council fixed that issue last year. Now, firefighters are asking for five years back pay.

The city is offering pay for 16 hours of paid time off while firefighters want 24 hours.

Judge Gaujot asked both sides Wedneday why they came to court over an eight-hour difference. He then ordered them back to mediation.

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Mitsubishi Heavy Industries says new hangars at NCWV will allow it to diversify service

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — Hundreds of new jobs are coming to the North Central West Virginia Airport with the expansion of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries West Virginia Service Center.

Gov. Jim Justice joined company, state and local officials for the Wednesday afternoon announcement at the airport in Bridgeport.

Company officials said the initial phase of the $20 million project will include a new state of the art hangar that will include four lines of aircraft maintenance on the CRJ fleet. A second phase will include three lines of maintenance on the regional jets.

North Central West Virginia Regional Airport Director Rick Rock first announced the project on WAJR’s ‘Talk of the Town’ last month.

The project will create 300 new jobs at the MHIRJ facility that already has about 500 employees. Construction jobs are expected to total around 1,000.

“This is the summation of almost a decade worth of work,” MHIRJ Head of Service Network Anthony Hinton told the crowd gathered for the announcement. “This expansion truly cements MHIRJ’s commitment to the state and positions the airport as paramount to the regional aviation infrastructure.”

MHIRJ, which is Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and the CRJ Series program from Bombardier, chose to stay in Bridgeport after it purchased Bombardier. Ismail Mokabel, senior vice president and head of aftermarket of MHIRJ Service Centers, said he first discovered the generosity, hospitality and ingenuity of West Virginians about a decade ago. He said it’s the right place to expand the company’s operations.

“This gives us state of the art infrastructure for our customers and of course our employees. It gives us a platform to grow and diversify,” Mokabel said. “We’re also anchoring ourself to diversifying the type of business we have in this facility.”

Mokabel said the design of the new buildings are designed to hold all of the way up to narrow body aircraft which will allow for diversification.

State Senator Mike Romano, a former Harrison County commissioner and airport board member, said many long hours were spent with first Bombardier and then MHIRJ on the plans for expansion. Romano said the biggest selling chip the local area had were the existing workers.

Mike Romano

“Because you work hard and put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay and you do a tremendous job, the best in the world, repairing these and refurbishing these jet aircraft and you’ve been doing it for decades,” Romano said. “Without you, we never would have what we’re about to have here in West Virginia.”

Romano also credited Gov. Jim Justice for quickly responding to a request from local officials a few years ago when state resources were needed to complete the deal.

“No governor believed in this project more than you did,” Romano told Justice. “You helped us make things happen here. When we called action was taken.”

Justice told the crowd the decision to get involved as a no-brainer.

“When they came to me and said, ‘look at what we are proposing to do,’ how long did it take me to say I’m in? You know why? Because I’m a businessman,” Justice said.

“The CRJ fleet is the backbone of regional flying in the U.S. and we are proud to be the custodians of that,” Mokabel said.

Airport Director Rick Rock said the years of work on the project has finally paid off.

Rick Rock

“Every time at the end of the day when we’re wondering if this was going to happen, it was always about the employees and advocating for the state of West Virginia and making sure we help diversify this economy and help keep West Virginia moving to a brighter future,” Rock said.

U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito praised the project in separate statements.

Manchin called it another round of fantastic news for the airport.

“Work to expand Mitsubishi’s hangars will begin soon and will create more than 300 new jobs in the process. I applaud everyone who has worked hard to ensure this process was completed quickly despite months of delay,” Manchin said.

Capito said the announcement means more jobs and more growth.

“Today marks another milestone in this strong partnership that will continue to drive economic growth and commercial investments for years to come,” she said.

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After no game in 2020, Lee and Hays grateful for return of North-South All-Star Football Classic

After a one-year hiatus for the first time since 1975, the North-South All-Star Football Classic returns Saturday. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at South Charleston’s Black Eagle Stadium.

Prior to the cancelation of last year’s game due to the pandemic, the South Cardinals were to be coached by Greenbrier East’s Ray Lee, while the North Bears were to be guided by North Marion’s Daran Hays.

Both Lee and Hays are filling the head coaching roles for those respective teams a year later.

“It was real unfortunate what happened last year,” Lee said. “I’ve always felt bad for those young men that didn’t get to participate in a once in a lifetime event for them. But to get selected to do it the next year and for me to get to select to some great young men again, it’s an honor and a blessing to get to do this and pick a roster twice.”

Hays didn’t have to think twice as to whether or not he would coach the North.

“I’ve always followed it,” Hays said. “It’s something I was nominated for as a player. I was an alternate and wasn’t able to play in it. But a good friend of mine (former Buckhannon-Upshur and Lewis County football coach) Eddie Vincent and I used to get together and come here and watch the game every year. It’s kind of a bucket list item.

“I’m only the third coach at North Marion and now I’m the third coach that’s been fortunate enough to coach in this game. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I didn’t think I’d get to do it quite this soon, but I really relish the opportunity.”

Players and coaches from both teams reported to West Virginia State on Sunday, where a week’s worth of preparation takes place.

In addition to both teams practicing twice daily, Game Director Bob Mullett and Assistant Director Mark Montgomery help organize a daily itinerary to include off-the-field bonding activities. There was a movie night Monday, bowling on Tuesday and a pool party will be held in Nitro later Wednesday.

“I told the guys when we had the introductory meeting, it’s really quiet in here and it’s the last time you’ll hear the sound of silence,” Hays said. “That’s been the case. Already, you’re seeing guys that were rivals in high school becoming friends and develop relationships.

“You’re also seeing some guys get a jumpstart on their new team whether it be a Concord, Glenville State or wherever. Those guys end up playing together in the college ranks and don’t go into the locker room as complete strangers, which is awesome.”

In addition to team bonding, coaches spend the week trying to develop successful game plans and figure out what best suits their roster.

“We came in with a keep it simple Suzy type attitude,” Lee said. “We don’t want to overcomplicate things. We want the guys to have fun and still have something effective and not predictable so we can go out, execute, play fast and have fun.”

Greenbrier East football coach Ray Lee prepares to lead the Spartans on to the field before a game at Ripley.

Coaches are also able to get a look at trying players at different positions, though Hays says most of that sorts itself out without much involvement from the staff.

“Linemen this year were kind of challenging, so some of those guys that were typically in a defensive role are going to play a little more offense or vice versa,” Hays said. “But for the most part, most of these guys are playing somewhere they’re comfortable playing.

“A lot of offenses nowadays just put their most athletic kid at quarterback, so we’re asking them to play some defensive back, slot receiver or even outside receiver. But once they get here, they kind of sort it out themselves as they develop relationships with the coaching staffs and players.”

For high school teams whose seasons were cut short in 2020 due to the color-coded COVID-19 map, Saturday’s game can provide some closure to those seniors who were eliminated without suffering a loss on the field.

It will also mark the final football game for those players not going on to play college football.

“It gives the young men another chance to play their final game,” Lee said. “Some of them this may be their last game and for some it may be a final game that they didn’t get to play during the regular season or in the playoffs. It gives them another shot to get out and have some fun. To come down and build friendships with people they played against or didn’t know and these friendships you hope will last a lifetime for them.”

The South Cardinals sport a 40-23-3 all-time record in the series, although the North Bears have won four straight since enduring a six-game skid from 2010-2015.

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Racing Commission deals with dispute over security at Charles Town track

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — There appears to be a temporary solution to an ongoing access and security issue concerning where the horses are kept at Hollywood Casino and Racetrack at Charles Town.

The state Racing Commission met in emergency session Wednesday to hear from track officials and representatives of the Charles Town Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association (HBPA).

James Miller

The track is having a security staffing problem, according to Lee Monaco, director of security operations at the track, and a large new gate near the stables cannot be staffed 24/7.

“Currently we are going to hold it at the hours that we’re posting so we’re going to need everyone to work with us on that,” Monaco said during the meeting. “Again, looking at the staffing situation we are in, we physically cannot expand those hours right now.”The track has agreed to have a walk through gate installed in a few days that will provide 24-hour access to the stables. A larger drive through gate will also provide access but security will have to be notified when someone attempts to enter. For now, that gate will not be locked.

HBPA President James Miller said the situation has been talked about for months and the horsemen still have some concerns.

“We’re still rolling the dice with no horse being put an inhumane situation and that’s what we’re really concerned about,” Miller said.

HBPA Executive Director Maria Catignani went a step further saying the barn area has not been properly secured.

“If the gate is unlocked and someone walks through there and neglects to shut the gate, not lock it, then the gate is wide open,” she said.

Monaco said the track has actually improved security in recent months despite its staffing problems. He said larger gates were installed in an area that had a very small barrier before. He said there is some monitoring in place although vehicle patrols of the area are sporadic.

“Under our current staffing matrix that’s one of the services that we can’t always provide. When it’s available we do have that out there and they do check the barn areas, our hotels and our other property,” Monaco said. “When staffing gets better it will be something that will be there. If I had to put an estimate on it I would say it’s something we have about 60% of the time.”

The racing commission agreed to meet again Thursday, June 24, to get an update on the situation. Commission Chairman Ken Lowe had request for all those involved at Charles Town.

“Let’s remind the horsemen, they all have a responsibility to, of course, act properly and cooperate and at the same time security and security employees will be polite and correctly identify folks. Everybody get along, get along, get along,” Lowe said.

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Theft of catalytic converters is becoming a new problem in W.Va.

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Law enforcement agencies across southern West Virginia are dealing with a new problem which should be of great concern to those who own a vehicle with high clearance.

Theft of catalytic converters has become the new rage of the criminal element.  It’s not just in West Virginia, but nationally and even in Canada stealing the key component of most modern vehicle exhausts has become a massive problem.

“There are trace amounts of very precious metals in the converters. It’s nothing you could pull out on your own and take it to a recycling center, but if you have several it can amount to something, ” said Captain Pat Rader of the South Charleston Police Department.

Rader said his detectives continue to investigate several cases. For the past year there have been 20 to 30 stolen in South Charleston alone. According to Rader, his department’s officers were able to make an arrest which involved several of those cases and the thefts have slowed down. However, in areas where there isn’t as large police presence it’s become a real issue.

The game is quick. Thieves use a reciprocating saw, often referred to as a “saws all” for the activity. They make two cuts to the exhaust system on either side off the converter and they are out. The biggest targets are trucks, vans, and any other vehicle which has higher ground clearance giving easier access to the exhaust.

“If somebody knows exactly what they’re doing with a box truck or delivery truck with good clearance, they’ll be in and out in about a minute,” Rader said.

State Police have an open investigation. Rader said his officers and those with other law enforcement including the city of Charleston and almost every surrounding county law enforcement agency is dealing with similar thefts and problems. He thinks a lot more may be connected than anybody has been able to figure.

“It’s more organized that people would realize. It’s not Johnny down the street it’s several different guys working in concert to get as many as they can. They’ll then find somebody from out of state who will pay top dollar for what they have,” Rader explained.

Companies with fleets are encouraged to increase lighting, put up security fencing and additional cameras. Rader said he’s unsure if there is anything mechanical people are doing to protect the converters. Replacement of the parts is pricey.

“Its costing time and money for these businesses who are already having a tough time trying to scratch out a living from this pandemic,” he explained.

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Photo gallery: Jefferson sweeps Martinsburg to clinch state tourney berth

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Photo gallery from Jefferson’s 6-1 win at Martinsburg to claim the Class AAA Region II championship.

(Photos courtesy of Christopher C. Davis/@EP_BigCameraGuy)

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