Magnolia coach Dave Cisar reached 800 career victories earlier this season.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dave Cisar is so old school, his lineup card might as well be written in hieroglyphics.
Yet, as the veteran coach winds his way through his 40th season at Magnolia, his legendary intensity remains. It was in full view Saturday during a triangular at Sissonville, as the Blue Eagles played the host Indians and Valley.
Disappointed in the way his team performed in an 11-4 win against Sissonville in its first contest, Cisar lined up his players along the infield following the game and let off some steam. Magnolia dropped a pair of foul pops, made two errors and saw the Indians steal 12 bases.
"We've probably dropped 60 percent of the infield pops we've seen this year,'' Cisar said after his soliloquy, still simmering a bit. "We're [8-1] and I'd like to say we're going someplace, but I don't know. We've played a time or two this season pretty good, but today our effort was extremely burdensome. We didn't have much emotion.
"My goodness gracious, the fun of sports is busting your hind end. Discipline without desire is drudgery. It looked like everything today was drudgery for us. We've got four, five real good ballplayers here. We're solid, [so] I coach. You won't see me just standing there. These people think I'm nuts,'' he said, waving to the stands.
Earlier this season, Cisar reached 800 career victories and trails his Northern Panhandle counterpart (John Marshall coach Bob Montgomery) by just a few wins. He also won the Class AA title in 2006.
Yes, Cisar has been around a long time - he also coached football at Magnolia for 24 seasons - but the fiery 66-year-old hasn't changed his tactics or his approach after all these years.
At one point in Saturday's game with Sissonville, Cisar inserted Soren Shade as a courtesy runner. When the first pitch to the next batter sailed to the backstop, Shade apparently didn't see it happen and nearly didn't make it to second base, even though the ball bounced around for about 10 seconds. Cisar promptly called a timeout and replaced Shade with another courtesy runner.
It brought to mind some of Cisar's previous machinations, like the many times he surmised the opposing team had trouble fielding bunts, and ordered every player in his lineup to drop it down. Or when he figured out the opposing pitcher had trouble throwing to left-handed batters, and sent up every single one of his players as a lefty - even those who had never batted that way in their lives. After several walks, the pitcher was yanked.
Through it all, Cisar has remained true to himself, and doesn't care what anyone else thinks. At one point Saturday, he turned his ballcap around and coached from the third-base box with it hanging backward on his head.
He reprimands his outfielders almost daily because of their defensive stance.
"I don't care what McCutchen does,'' he tells them, referring to Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen, then aligns his feet in the preferred fashion. "I want my outfielders to play like this.''
Cisar says, "I don't blast my own players,'' but doesn't hesitate to call them out at any point during a game - from the dugout or the coaches box, often in animated fashion. He does it because he's constantly teaching - and because he cares about the game he loves.
"I have a passion,'' Cisar said. "Baseball ranks No. 1 in my life, and No. 2 and No. 3 and No. 4. Somewhere in there, my wife ranks in there, too.''
Rumors have surfaced that Cisar may consider stepping down following this season, but he didn't want to address those thoughts Saturday.
"Hey, the fire still burns,'' he said. "You know what? I've got enthusiasm. I bring enthusiasm every day, not every other day.''
Playing up, staying up
Some teams prefer to play stronger competition with hopes that it pays off in the postseason. Count Valley coach Joe Craffey in that number.
Of the Greyhounds' first 12 games this season, seven have come against either Class AAA opponents (three) or AA foes (four). Two more such games remain.
"We always try to put two, three triple-As in there,'' Craffey said, "and a few double-As, just to hopefully get us ready for seeing some of the better pitching down the road when it comes to tournament time.''
Magnolia dropped down from AA to A this season, but still presents a big-school-type challenge because of its schedule and past successes. Valley reached Kyle Elliott for nine hits in Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Blue Eagles and rang up 10 hits on host Sissonville, but dropped that game, too, 6-4.
"Elliott was a heck of a pitcher, I thought,'' Craffey said, "but we hit him pretty well. We're making bad plays at inopportune times.
"You look at the Sissonville game and we're up 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth and our pitcher has a no-hitter, but he walks a guy, then the next guy gets a hit and we make an error and the next thing you know, we're down 6-3 in the seventh. I hate to say we lose focus during the game, but something happens and we get caught up in it, and we're not playing the game. We haven't developed that killer instinct.''
A day at the beach
Several Kanawha Valley teams fared pretty well in their spring break trips to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for the Mingo Bay Classic last week.
Despite one day of games being wiped out by rain, most teams got in at least four games and many picked up a few wins.
St. Albans (7-3) won all four of its games, while Hurricane and South Charleston each went 3-1. George Washington was 2-2.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.