By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
The West Virginia Red Hats have had plenty of success in their inaugural season. Fans will have the chance to see just how good they are over the next two weekends.
The Red Hats, a travel team started by West Virginia Miners manager Tim Epling and area coach Darrell Frazier, will host a pair of tournaments, including the Gold Medal Games that start today and run through Sunday. Twelve teams will participate in the three-day tournament.
The Red Hats will play their games at Independence High School. The 19-under team will take on the Kanawha Valley Crawdads at 4 p.m. Friday and the Virginia Storm at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The 16-under team will play the West Virginia Patriots at 6:30 p.m. today, then Bridgeport at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Sunday’s schedule will be determined based on the first two days’ results.
Both teams are made up of some of the best high school players from southern West Virginia. Every player on the 19-under team was a 2013 all-state selection.
The team stands at 5-10-1 after struggling with consistency.
“We have struggled a bit with injuries and a lack of depth with so many guys being on vacation and missing for graduation, college visits, etc.,” said coach Joe Riffe. “We’ve had to play a lot of guys out of position and have lacked pitching depth so far. When we have a full team in place, we fully expect to be a dominant team.”
The 16-unders have had more success, including an unbeaten run in a Huntington tournament two weeks ago and a runner-up finish in Johnson City, Tenn., last weekend.
“The 16-under team has had a pretty good run so far,” Riffe said. “We are 10-3 with that team.”
The Red Hats will also host the Coalfield Classic Tournament July 5-7 at Linda K. Epling Stadium in Beckley. The 19-unders are scheduled to host the West Virginia Power at 5:30 p.m. on July 5 and Alpha Omega Sports at 3 p.m. on July 6, while the 16s will play the Virginia Eclipse at 3 p.m. on July 5 and Alpha Omega Sports at 12:30 p.m. on July 6.
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There will be a showcase event for high school-age players today at Epling Stadium. The event will run from 10 a.m. to noon and the cost is $25. Players will go through a pro-style workout. College coaches will be in attendance.
Players interested in attending should call 304-712-8496.