By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Trying to establish itself as a true baseball power in Class A, Valley has played in the state tournament the last two years.
But the Greyhounds, 25-9 a season ago, want to do more than just get there — not that coach Joe Craffey is downplaying the significance of that accomplishment.
“Baseball is a little different than football or basketball because of the format,” said Craffey, who played all three during his Valley career. “The last two years, we have been lucky enough to get there and be one of the last four teams in the state. If you get to the state tournament in baseball, it’s because you have done what you are supposed to do.
“Let’s not make less of what getting there means. But we are at the point now that we have got to do something if we are able to get back.”
Valley lost four starters from the team that lost to East Hardy in last year’s state semifinals. Gone are infielders Robbie Belmont and Tyler Chaffins, pitcher Morgan McDermott and catcher Tyler Clodfelter.
Belmont is a former all-stater and the 2012 Coalfield Conference Class A Impact Athlete of the Year, Chaffins was a second-team all-stater and four-year starter and McDermott turned in some quality innings. But Clodfelter might prove to be the toughest to replace.
“That might hurt us worse, just from the standpoint of his ability as a catcher,” Craffey said. “We’re moving two kids around to try to find one. A good catcher is hard to come by, and (Clodfelter) did a good job.”
Senior Cody Winter and junior John Riddle have done the bulk of the catching for the Greyhounds, who are 3-1 after Wednesday’s 9-1 loss at Class AAA George Washington.
Senior Arik McGinnis is Valley’s top returning player. A first-team all-stater in 2012, McGinnis had hits in seven of his first 10 at-bats this season, including two homers and three doubles, and drove in 11 runs.
McGinnis will play shortstop and second base, as well as pitch for the Greyhounds.
Craffey said most of his players will find themselves at multiple positions this year. Pitching changes could significantly impact the defensive lineup on a game-by-game basis.
“You’ve been around long enough to know that in Class A, you don’t have a lot of numbers and depth,” Craffey said. “You just have to put players in the positions that give you the best chance to win.”
Among those taking the mound in addition to McGinnis and Winter this year will be senior Joseph Eckert and junior Raeshawn Breckenridge, a star in both football and basketball who transferred back to Valley from George Washington.
Seniors Todd Coleman and Mark Hess — who mostly was a designated hitter last season — will be in the outfield. Another senior, Drew Jones, has moved from outfield to second base.
Sophomore Ryan Nottingham will play at first base and could provide some relief for Winter and Riddle behind the plate.
The players have responded well to having to move from spot to spot, Craffey said.
“They have been mature about it,” he said.
Valley’s scheduled game at Oak Hill today has been moved to Smithers. First pitch is set for 5:15 p.m.
— E-mail: gfauber