The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

High School Sports

May 29, 2013

Valley back for another title shot

Seeking to reach the next plateau, Valley will test the state baseball tournament waters again beginning Friday.

The Greyhounds (23-7), the Class A Region 3 champs, will face former Region 3 nemesis Charleston Catholic (28-9), the Region 4 representative, in the four-team single-A portion of the weekend tournament at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston. The contest will be played at about 12:45 p.m. Friday.

Like his coach, Joe Craffey, senior right fielder Mark Hess says the Greyhounds have some unfinished business.

“It’s nice to make it (to the tournament),” Hess said, “but it’s been a goal of mine ever since I started playing high school sports to have a state championship.

“This is my (last chance). Everybody wants that ring. I know it’s something we can accomplish.”

“(The season) has been exciting,” added Hess, who is hitting .447 with 10 doubles and 25 runs scored. “I’ve played up to my personal expectations, and I hope we played up to Coach Craffey’s.”

“We’re happy where we stand, but we still want to finish out the year and win the state championship,” said senior second baseman Drew Jones, who has a 4-0 pitching record with a 1.27 ERA and is batting .422 with five doubles and 34 runs scored. “I think we’ve cut down a lot on our errors, hit the ball better this year, and we have better pitching.

“We just need to hit the ball and do the little things.”

A weekend featuring two wins would be huge, Jones stressed.

“We’ve played together since ... we were five years old. (A state championship) would be good for the team and good for the community, too.”

Senior center fielder Todd Coleman is confident his team is ready to play well this weekend.

“I think we can win,” said Coleman (.409, 15 RBIs). “We’ve got a pretty good defense.

“If we hit the ball, we should be fine.”

“Catholic is going to put the ball in play, they’re going to try to run, hit and run and bunt,” said Craffey. “They’ll do anything they can to put pressure on you.

“As a team, I think we’ve hit the ball better this year (than last) 1 through 9,” he continued. “There are still some situations where we could get better in picking up runs.

“And our pitching has been good all the way through the year. I felt confident in any pitcher we threw out there.”

Craffey tells his players to “get your chest out there and hold your head high.”

“You’re one of four left; that’s a good thing,” said Craffey. “People tend to dislike you because you’ve had success.

“The work we’ve put in, it’s time to do something more (at the state level).”

The Greyhounds are led by senior Arik McGinnis, who is batting .474 (45-for-95) with five home runs, 14 doubles, 45 RBIs and 43 runs. McGinnis (4-3 record, 2.62 ERA, 94 strikeouts in 48.0 innings) is expected to take the mound for the tourney opener.

Besides Coleman, McGinnis, Hess and Jones, also in the starting lineup are: senior catcher Cody Winter (a team-leading .477 with five homers and 26 RBIs), first baseman Joe Eckert (.347 with 16 RBIs), shortstop Druw Bowen (.400 with five homers and 34 RBIs and a 6-0 pitching mark), third baseman John Riddle (.411 with 21 RBIs), left fielder Raeshawn Breckenridge (.424 with eight homers, 12 doubles and 41 RBIs), and designated hitter Donte Wilkerson (.300 with 15 runs).

On the mound, Bowen — a freshman — has a 2.15 ERA and has fanned 65 batters in 39.0 innings, but he’s had to undergo therapy of late to deal with elbow trouble. In the last few days, Bowen “has gotten a lot better,” said Craffey.

Winter is 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA.

Valley and Charleston Catholic split regular season games with Valley winning 11-8 at home on April 18 and Catholic posting a 9-1 win in Charleston on May 3.

In the win over Catholic, Valley “hit the ball well,” while in the loss to the Irish, “we had a lot of injuries,” Coleman stressed.

Catholic comes into the state tournament having won 16 of its last 17 outings, including a 14-9 regular season verdict over Class AA Herbert Hoover Monday.

Valley has won 12 of its last 14.

The other two teams in the single-A tournament field are Magnolia and Notre Dame. Valley dropped a 5-2 regular season verdict to Magnolia.

The Class A championship game is set for about 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

— E-mail: skeenan

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