Raising the stakes
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The stakes jack up considerably for baseball teams this week.
Regionals open today across West Virginia, including four involving Kanawha Valley teams. One team advances from each region to the state tournament May 30-June 1 at Appalachian Power Park.
Three Class AAA regional semifinals are set for tonight - Cabell Midland (21-10) at Hurricane (25-4) and Logan (20-9) at Winfield (14-16) in Region 4 and Riverside (12-15) at South Charleston (16-13) in Region 3. The first two games are scheduled to begin at 6:30 and Riverside-SC at 6.
Also, half of the Class A regional semis are being held tonight around the state, including one in Region 4 pitting Charleston Catholic (25-9) against Wahama (18-11) at Point Pleasant at 6:30.
Hurricane, a traditional area power and the No. 1 team in the Gazette's Class AAA ratings, has lost four times at the regional level over the past five seasons, and was erased by Winfield in last year's sectionals.
The Redskins have gone 151-45 since 2008 without a trip to Power Park, but could take a big step in that direction tonight against No. 6 Midland. The Knights have handed Hurricane two of those four recent regional setbacks - 2-1 in the 2011 semifinals and 6-2 in nine innings in the 2010 semis.
"Every year's different,'' said Redskins coach Brian Sutphin. "We like the team we have and it's a great opportunity to make 2013 the best year that we've had.
"We've had good sports teams this year at Hurricane High School, and we look to add that to baseball. Certainly we respect our opponent and we look forward to the opportunity. It should be a lot of fun.''
Midland beat Hurricane in the finals of the Mountain State Athletic Conference tournament 4-2, but the Redskins won 3-1 earlier in the season.
Top hitters for Hurricane include Tate Brock (.390, four homers, 24 RBIs), J.T. Rogoszewski (.385), Connor Adams (four homers, 25 RBIs) and Riley Metz (three homers, 20 RBIs).
The top arms belong to Austin Hensley (5-1, 1.73), Metz (5-1, 1.28), Rogoszewski (6-1, 0.87) and Adams (6-1, 2.12). Midland's No. 1 pitcher is Seth Kinker.
Logan and Winfield have played twice this season, with the No. 9 Wildcats winning each time, 10-1 and 11-2.
The Generals bank on the hitting of Jordan Clark (.376, five homers, 20 RBIs), Josh Bumgarner (.372) and Bear Bellomy (.333). Bumgarner (7-3, 3.24) is also the lead pitcher.
Logan has a pair of top-notch pitchers in Zach Minnick and Johnny Morrison.
South Charleston has played Riverside just once this season, beating the Warriors 7-2 on May 1, but the Warriors didn't start ace Tyler Hall (4-3, 2.35) that day, fell behind 5-0 in the third inning and used Hall in relief.
"Hall's a pretty good pitcher,'' said SC coach Ken Samms, "but we'll battle and see what happens. I've got a lot of confidence in this bunch. I really don't care who they pitch.''
Leading hitters for Riverside are Chaz Davis (.355), Brady Wilkinson (.342) and Cam Norris (.324). SC's top sticks belong to Antonio Brown (.416), Jonathan Cline (.352) and Austin Santrock (.300, 28 RBIs).
Either Jerod Jobst (6-4), who pitched six innings in Friday's sectional win against George Washington, or Jonathan Pauley (5-3) will start for the Black Eagles.
Catholic, the No. 4 team in the Gazette's Class A ratings, figures to be favored against Wahama today. In the teams' regular-season games, the Irish won handily 24-3 on April 30 and 12-2 on March 28.
Kiefer Hovorka (5-4, 1.31) and Andy Hoyer (8-1, 3.12) are the aces of the Catholic pitching staff. Top hitters include Rocco Wilcox (.429, 31 RBIs), Hoyer (.411), Connor Golden (.388, 36 RBIs) and Nelson McKown (.387, 44 RBIs).
The White Falcons' offense is paced by Wesley Harrison (.448, 29 RBIs), Garrett Miller (.328) and Austin Cole (.323). Hunter Bradley (7-4, .218) and Dakota Sisk (5-2, 2.29) are the top pitchers.
The game was moved to Point Pleasant because of issues involving the lights at Wahama's field.
All of today's winners advance to the regional finals on Wednesday.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.