It’s a game with big implications, just as any others are at this time of the season.
Joe Craffey is surely anticipating it, and he’s definitely not looking past it.
Craffey’s Valley Greyhounds will host the Pocahontas County Warriors in a Class A Region 3 semifinal baseball game at 5:30 p.m. today. It’s the first time a region baseball game has been played in Smithers, Craffey says. And he’s enlisting locals to support the Greyhounds (21-10).
“I would like to challenge the community, the student body and everybody to get in there and come to the game to support the team,” he said. “This is one of the biggest games ever played down there.”
Valley and Pocahontas didn’t face each other in the regular season.
“I haven’t even thought about anything other than Pocahontas,” he said. “We watched them play Richwood the other night.”
Craffey says senior pitcher/third baseman Reid Harper leads the way for the Warriors, but he feels his team controls its own destiny.
“If we do what we’ve been doing the past few weeks — getting guys on, moving ‘em over, being aggressive on base and with the bats — we’ll be all right,” he said. “We’re going to have to manufacture runs, and up to this point we’ve done that. ”The Greyhounds advanced in Region 3 play by defeating Fayette County foe Midland Trail twice, by scores of 14-4 and 10-1.
“I thought we played pretty well on Tuesday (the 14-4 effort),” said Craffey, “but on Thursday, I didn’t think we played with much enthusiasm. We sort of went through the motions.”
Craffey has several pitchers on which he can count to take the hill for Monday’s game. Battling an ankle injury incurred in a win over Capital late in the campaign, Dillon Ganoe (3-1) is a likely candidate to get the starting nod if he’s healthy. However, Craffey also has confidence in others, including Tyler Chaffins (5-3 with wins over triple-A foes Capital and Nicholas), Zach Tolley (3-2 with only one earned run allowed in last three outings), or Nick Acord (3-1).
“(Being able to turn to several quality pitchers) is something we haven’t been able to do in the last few years,” said Craffey.
Other pitching records include Morgan McDermott (2-1), Drew Jones (1-0), Arik McGinnis (3-1) and Tate Winebrenner (1-1).
At the plate, the ’Hounds have gotten solid contributions from several players. Center fielder Cameron Belmont is batting .414 (46-for-111) with 37 RBIs. Catcher Tyler Sears checks in with a .400 average (34-for-85) and 35 RBIs. Ganoe, who plays at shortstop when not on the mound, is hitting .380 (35-for-92) with a team-best 38 RBIs. Other main contributors include: left fielder/shortstop Robbie Belmont, .333 (35-for-105), 13 doubles; second baseman/designated hitter Tolley, .313 (25-for-80), 27 RBIs; third baseman Acord, .367 (33-for-90); and second baseman/pitcher Chaffins, .358 (24-for-67).
The winner plays at either Fayetteville or Iaeger on Wednesday, with a berth in the four-team state tournament on the line.
Valley appeared in the state tourney for the only time in school history in 2001.
The Warriors advanced by beating Richwood twice after losing the first section meeting with the Lumberjacks.
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Fayetteville was one of the few teams able to get in most of its games this season.
That turned out to be a bit more of a hindrance than first-year coach Dan Poland anticipated.
The Pirates go into today’s semifinal at Iaeger with a 22-12 record, which means they had no room to fit in a tuneup game last weekend. After playing 32 games in the regular season, Fayetteville has not played since beating Montcalm for the Section 3 title May 11.
“We had some intrasquad games to make it competitive, but it’s not the same (as a game),” Poland said. “I definitely worry about us (coming out flat). And it’s a two-hour drive to play a team you don’t know much about.”
Caleb O’Neal leads the Pirates with a .404 batting average. Nich Carte is next at .400, followed by Jon Paul Blankenship at .393.
Freshman catcher Aaron Krise boasts an on-base percentage of .750.
Carte (5-2) will start for the Pirates.
At this point, every game Iaeger (10-9) plays could be the school’s last athletic event ever. The school will close in a matter of days — graduation is at 8 p.m. Friday — and merge with Big Creek into the new River View High School in August.
“Like about all kids do, they’re hating that it’ll all be over with,” Maynard said. “They’re dealing with it.”
The Cubs advanced by beating Big Creek 2-games-to-1 for the Section 4 championship.
— Gary Fauber and Tom Bone contributed to this story.