By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Mark Daniel isn’t at all suggesting the pitching his team faced in last year’s state tournament was no good.
“It was 84, 85 (miles per hour) and had some movement, and we couldn’t catch up,” the Woodrow Wilson coach said in reference to a 5-0 loss to Cabell Midland in the Class AAA semifinals. “That’s not really overpowering, but it was the best we saw all season.”
Seth Kinker, last season’s runner-up for state player of the year, was never challenged, limiting the Flying Eagles to two hits and striking out eight in a complete game.
Should the Eagles be fortunate enough to return to Charleston in June, Daniel wants them to be better prepared. To that end, Woodrow will leave Wednesday morning to play in the eighth annual Wheels Tournament in Rock Hill, S.C.
There, the Eagles are sure to face the kind of pitching Daniel wants them to see for the first time now, rather than at the state tournament. It starts Wednesday with a 4 p.m. game against Faith Baptist Christian School out of Brandon, Fla.
Faith Baptist — also with the Eagles mascot — won last year’s National Association of Christian Athletes national championships in both Divisions I and II.
“We want to see the pitchers with the best speeds and best movement,” Daniel said. “One guy on their team throws 95, one throws 93 and one is 88, 89.
“We’re going there to prepare for sectionals, regionals and the state tournament. That’s our goal, and it should be every team’s goal.”
Woodrow (7-2) originally was supposed to play in a tournament in Hartsville, S.C. Daniel has had teams there before, when current major leaguers such as Matt Wieters and Justin Smoak played.
But when a pair of New York teams had to back out because they had lost their spring breaks, the depleted field forced Daniel to look elsewhere. He chose the Wheels Tournament over a tournament in Tennessee because of the caliber of competition.
The first three days of the tournament will be pool play. Woodrow will face fellow state team Poca at 4 p.m. Thursday and South Pointe (S.C.) at 7 p.m. Friday. That game will be played on South Pointe’s home field.
The three bracket winners and a wild-card will advance to Saturday’s semifinal round. The others will be placed in a consolation bracket.
A team from Oxnard, Calif., will be in a separate bracket, but Daniel would like to see his team play against them Saturday.
“We’re going to go down there and watch all the teams,” he said. “We are curious about (Oxnard). We want to see what the game looks like on the other coast.”
One player from each of the 12 teams in the tournament will receive a $1,000 scholarship.
Woodrow will host Fayetteville at 5:30 p.m. today, then practice Tuesday before hitting the road Wednesday.
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