The memory remains
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- You can do one of two things with a painful loss in athletics. You can either "burn the tapes,'' as some coaches like to say, and try to forget all about it, or you can draw on it for incentive.
Herbert Hoover selects the latter.
The Huskies still vividly recall their disappointment and frustration from last year, when they fell to Wyoming East 1-0 in the Class AA championship game at Appalachian Power Park.
"Every day,'' said Hoover coach Brian Young. "They think about it every day. And they're not afraid to tell you that. They think about it every day.''
The Huskies would like to make amends for that shortcoming, and have given themselves another chance, again advancing to the state tournament with Friday's 4-2 Region 4 title game victory against Wayne.
Hoover (29-3), the No. 1 team in the Gazette's state rankings, squares off with No. 4 Independence (20-8) at approximately 7:15 Thursday in the semifinal round.
That blanking in the title game last year marked an aberration for Hoover which, like this year, makes a habit of pounding the ball all over the park. Nineteen times the Huskies have scored 10 or more runs in a game this season and 18 times have shortened the game via the 10-run rule.
"We talk about it every day at the end of practice,'' said junior Tristan Fields, a pitcher-outfielder of the way last year ended, "and that's our goal - to not have that feeling ever again.''
Corey Bird, a senior outfielder and returning all-stater, takes that shutout loss harder than most Huskies since, as the team's leadoff hitter and stolen-base specialist, he's the table-setter for the rest of the lineup. He hopes to make amends this time.
"I think about that a lot - all the time,'' said Bird, "especially in the past few weeks thinking about going to Power Park. And not just doing my thing. Hopefully our team shows up and we play as a team, and we win the state championship.''
When you've put together the kind of season the Huskies have this year, it's sort of hard to be humble.
Perhaps with the Wyoming East loss as motivation, Hoover ripped off 16 straight victories to begin the year, not being saddled with its first loss until exactly one month into the season.
However, in a span of two weeks after that blazing start, the Huskies lost three times - two of them blowouts - 12-4 to Cardinal Conference rival Poca, 7-6 to Point Pleasant and 13-3 to Ripley.
Those defeats, in retrospect, may have given the Huskies new energy and wiped out any feelings of complacency. Young said the losses may have taught his team a lesson.
"It did,'' Young said. "They got comfortable and relaxed a little bit. They refocused and especially once they got back into the sectionals, they refocused again. They've done a really nice job of doing what they had to do and came back with a good work ethic the last couple weeks.''
Both Fields and Bird agreed that they learned from those losses.
"We always try to get better at practice,'' Fields said, "and find something to work on every day. But losing those games made us realize that no matter who we play, we can be beat at any given time. So we try to show no mercy when we get on the field. We don't want to get beat.''
"I think the losses were good for us,'' Bird said. "They showed us that we just can't show up and beat any team. The losses show that at any given time, anybody can win. So during practice, we play with a bunch of intensity and try to have a bunch of confidence during games, and play hard to win.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.