CHARLESTON — Logan catcher and pitcher Zach Minnick didn’t accomplish the ultimate goal of a state baseball championship, but the individual credit and accolades have been heaped on the star since he began to make his mark on the Wildcats’ storied baseball program in 2012.
This season, Logan didn’t come out on top in its last game, but Minnick did at the end of his career as the West Virginia Sports Writers Association’s unanimous choice for State Player of the Year.
Minnick was the runner-up to Cabell Midland’s Seth Kinker for the award in 2014. This year, the three-time first-team Class AAA All-State selection received every first-place vote for the honor, finishing ahead of three NCAA Division I recruits – Hurricane senior shortstop/pitcher Trey Dawson, who is headed to Louisiana State University; Wheeling Park senior pitcher/shortstop Michael Grove, who is signed to play at West Virginia University; and Jefferson junior shortstop Paul Witt, who has committed to Virginia Commonwealth.
“It was a personal goal, but I didn’t really talk about it or say anything to anyone, but I still thought about it,” he said. “I wasn’t really worried about it. If I won it, I won it.”
Logan’s 5-foot-11, 220-pound backstop is headed to Campbell University, a member of the Big South Conference. The Camels finished sixth in the 11-team conference in 2015.
Minnick’s Wildcats never reached the regional finals. Logan was upset by South Charleston in the Region 3 Section 3 tournament in 2012, before being moved to Region 4 in 2013 where it lost to Winfield in the regional semifinals. Logan then was eliminated by Nitro in the deciding game of the sectional in 2014 and 2015.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Minnick said. “I didn’t get the team goals in my career, but stats wise, I don’t think I could’ve done any more individually than I did.”
During Minnick’s time on Middleburg Island, Logan had an 87-34 record, never winning fewer than 20 games in a season.
His last chance was quelled at Nitro on May 19 when Minnick started on the mound and took the loss, but Logan was plagued by two errors and Minnick was intentionally walked twice.
In a tie game and a runner on first in the seventh inning, Pritchard took the bat out of Minnick’s hands, which moved the lead run to second base.
“Who puts the winning run on second base,” Pritchard asked rhetorically. “I wasn’t going to let him beat us. He can beat you in so many ways, as a catcher, a pitcher and a hitter.
“He reminds me of (2007 player of the year) Arik Sikula. Even when he wasn’t pitching for South Charleston or Hurricane, he could beat you with the bat and on the bases.”
This season, Minnick batted .565 with 15 doubles, five triples, six home runs and 39 RBI. Two of his home runs came in a regular-season game at Hurricane, including a grand slam. He also stole 10 bases in 13 attempts this season.
As a pitcher, Minnick utilized a slick slider and a fastball that reached 90 mph to finish 7-2 with a 0.83 earned run average, 103 strikeouts and 23 walks in 59 innings. He had back-to-back no-hitters, striking out 15 in a seven-inning 6-0 win at George Washington on May 1 and striking out 13 in a 14-0 verdict against Man five days later.
Pritchard said Minnick’s move and accuracy on pick-off attempts and snap throws as a catcher forced him to keep Nitro’s runners close.
As a catcher, his pop time – the time elapsing between the sound of the pitch hitting the catcher’s glove and when it hits the glove of the infielder covering second base – is consistently sub-2.00.
“Over the summer we had so many good right- and left-handed pitchers,” Minnick said. “When they would do the pick-off moves and pitching fielding drills, I’d sit there and watch them. I didn’t really throw in the summer, just short relief. We had practice every morning at 7, so I was around it quite a bit. I just picked it up from watching.”
In his four-year career, Minnick is a .460 hitter, with 22 home runs, 33 doubles and 136 RBI. As a pitcher, he’s 22-5 with 229 strikeouts and 62 walks in 170.1 innings and a 1.73 earned run average.
He’ll be a catcher at Campbell, but said he might have the opportunity to pitch in short relief.
Minnick was passed over in this year’s Major League First-Year Player Draft, but said the week before that he was leaning toward going to college anyway, saying that head coach Justin Haire and his staff planned to heap a lot of responsibility and expectations as a leader on him.
Minnick is the third Logan player to win the award, following catcher/pitcher Bo Darby in 2006 and pitcher Brandon Chambers in 2001.
Winners of the West Virginia high school baseball Player of the Year award, as awarded by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association (starting in 1987):
2015 – Zach Minnick, Logan
2014 – Seth Kinker Cabell Midland
2013 – Daniel Heliene, Hedgesville
2012 – Korey Dunbar, Nitro
2011 – Caleb Ross, Cabell Midland
2010 – J.R. Bradley, Nitro
2009 – Brandon King, Martinsburg
2008 – Chase Pickering, Nitro
2007 – Arik Sikula, South Charleston
2006 – Bo Darby, Logan
2005 – Alex Wilson, Hurricane
2004 – Josh Whitlock, Ripley
2003 – Anthony Whittington, Buffalo
2002 – Daniel Carte, Hurricane
2001 – Brandon Chambers, Logan
2000 – Jimmy Rhodes, Jefferson
1999 – Josh Cenate, Jefferson
1998 – John Gouzd, Fairmont Senior
1997 – Dwayne Smith, East Fairmont
1996 – Todd Neff, Paden City
1995 – Jon Adkins, Wayne
1994 – Travis Harper, Circleville
1993 – Jared Camp, Huntington East
1992 – Tim Adkins, Wayne
1991 – Jamie Connor, Hedgesville
1990 – Ryan Williams, Elkins
1989 – David DeMoss, North Marion
1988 – John Lowery, Jefferson
1987 – Doug Creek, Martinsburg