By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
The word seems to be getting out about the Spring Break Wood Bat Classic.
Fayetteville’s annual tournament, now in its fourth season, does more than give teams a chance at a time machine-type of experience with the wood bat. With so many teams making the seven-hour trip to Myrtle Beach for a guarantee of baseball in warm weather, Fayetteville’s week-long event provides a less expensive alternative.
The tournament is scheduled to be played at Huse Memorial Park in Fayetteville, but the threat of poor weather could move today’s games to Linda K. Epling Stadium in Beckley.
This year, the competition has taken a step up.
There are three Class AAA teams in Oak Hill, Greenbrier East and Riverside. Class AA No. 5 Wyoming East and Liberty, which slipped from the top 10 this week but is still receiving votes in the West Virginia Sports Writers Poll, will be there. So, too, will Nicholas County, which continues its year-long athletics success to the diamond, and a seemingly improved Summers County.
“We’ve gotten some interest from some good teams,” Fayetteville coach Dan Poland said. “We added Oak Hill (late last week) and Riverside about two weeks ago. In the future we hope to get teams like Buffalo and Man in. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
Then, of course, there are the host Pirates, who went into Monday with a 10-7 record. It’s been a little difficult trying to peg the Pirates, who are dominating teams they should — 15-5 over Van twice, 13-0 over Meadow Bridge — and getting beat handily by those who are stronger — 17-2 to Virginia power Richlands, 14-2 to Class AA No. 2 Independence, 9-0 to Wyoming East.
But Fayetteville also won at Class A No. 10 Man 13-6. It was only the second loss of the season for the Hillbillies, who beat No. 2 Valley in Smithers two weeks ago.
The Pirates are a rarity in that they have played 17 games in another soggy spring. Six of those were played last week, which was taxing on the Fayetteville arms.
“We have some young guys who are doing well and we have some older guys who have stepped up to the plate,” Poland said. “Our pitching is very tired now (after the six games), but we have played excellent defense behind them. We’ve had some games where we have faced good pitchers and they have shut us down. (Josh) Zeboskey at Wyoming East, and we had some good at-bats versus Druw (Bowen) at Valley but he is just phenomenal.”
Freshman Will Denton is 3-1 with a save for the Pirates, while another freshman, Dalton Dempsey, is hitting .312 and playing well at shortstop.
Seniors Will Dooley (outfield) and Jake Alton (second base) are also playing well on defense, while first baseman James Criss and catcher Jake Cogar are both batting over .300 with 10 runs driven in. Sophomore Troy Farrell has been the classic utilityman, playing six different positions, and has logged over 20 innings on the mound.
The tournament gets under way today. The championship will be decided Saturday.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @GaryFauber.
Spring Break Wood Bat Classic Schedule
10 a.m. — Greenbrier East vs. Oak Hill
Noon — Greenbrier East vs. Nicholas County
2 p.m. — Nicholas County vs. Oak Hill
4 p.m. — Riverside vs. Wyoming East
Noon — Liberty vs. Wyoming East
2 p.m. — Wyoming East vs. Fayetteville
4 p.m. — Liberty vs. Fayetteville
Noon — Oak Hill vs. Summers County
2 p.m. — Nicholas County vs. Summers County
Noon — Greenbrier East vs. Summers County
2 p.m. — Liberty vs. Riverside
4 p.m. — Riverside vs. Fayetteville
TBD (schedule based on pool play results)