By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
The beach — be it Myrtle or Daytona — is a popular spring break destination for high school students in West Virginia. It’s no different for many baseball teams in the region.
Shady Spring is off to Myrtle Beach for a week of baseball starting Tuesday. So, too, are Mercer County rivals Bluefield, PikeView and reigning Class AAA state champion Princeton. All are scheduled to play in the annual Mingo Bay Classic.
Greenbrier East, led by third-year head coach Eric Morgan, is in the Sunshine State for three games. Morgan, a former pitcher in the Seattle Mariners system, used to coach in Florida and no doubt has connections there.
Liberty won’t be anywhere near the rays and waves of the Atlantic Ocean, but the Raiders will not be sitting at home, either.
Call it a staycation instead of vacation.
Starting today, the Raiders (3-0) will make a mini-tour of the Mountain State. Liberty will be at Nitro for a noon doubleheader against the Wildcats, who lost to Princeton in last year’s state title game. Then it’s on to Elkins for a 7 p.m. game on Tuesday, with a hotel stay in Weston before a noon meeting with Lewis County on Wednesday.
The Raiders will return to Raleigh County on Thursday for two games at Linda K. Epling Stadium in Beckley. They will take on Pocahontas County at 3 p.m. Thursday and Oak Hill at 1 p.m. Friday.
“One of the kids came to me and said, ‘We probably have the toughest schedule in double-A this week,’ and I said, ‘We probably have the toughest schedule in the state, period. Not just this week,” Liberty coach J.J. Tabor said. “Elkins won the American Legion state tournament last year and they draw mostly from Elkins High School. Pocahontas County went to regionals last year and Oak Hill always has a good team. And I don’t know if we’ll see better pitching than we’ll see at Nitro.
“If we’re not careful, that 3-0 record will go south quick.”
The Raiders’ offense is on a roll going into spring break. They are hitting .372 as a team, and five players are hitting at least .417 - Dylan Keel (.600), Austin Lyons (.546), Dakota Boulet (.500), Joey Lacek (.455) and Matt Bailey (.417).
“Right now we are swinging the bats well,” Tabor said. “We’ll see how good we are this week.”
WVU Tech lost 8-6 to Penn State-Allegheny on Saturday, ending a school-record 11-game winning streak. The Golden Bears won the first two games of the series, 3-1 and 7-3.
Tech (18-15), which has won 15 of its last 18 games, will host Shawnee State at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Doug Epling Field in East Bank.
Fans of the West Virginia Miners will be interested in a two-game series out on the West Coast, when the San Diego State Aztecs meet UC-Riverside.
Two former Miners will be in opposite dugouts. First baseman John Spirk plays for MLB Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn at San Diego State, while catcher Clayton Prestridge has started every game for UC-Riverside.
The teams will meet at SDSU at 9 p.m. Eastern today, then go to Riverside for the second game Tuesday, also at 9 p.m. Eastern.
Prestridge is hitting .337 with 17 runs batted in and 17 runs scored. Spirk has started 14 of 18 games and is hitting .233 with seven RBIs.
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