CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A few of West Virginia's traditional powers may be absent this weekend, but the 70th state high school baseball tournament still presents an interesting mix of teams.
The three-day tournament, which begins today at Appalachian Power Park, features no defending champions - Princeton (Class AAA), Wyoming East (AA) and Madonna (A) all fell in either the regional or sectional round of competition.
Also missing are stalwarts such as Jefferson (10 AAA titles), Nitro (six straight AAA appearances with two championships) and Wheeling Central (four of the last eight single-A crowns).
But the dozen teams who are here for the ninth state tournament at Power Park all appear capable - all were included in the Gazette's final state rankings and all are 20-game winners already this season.
Here's a quick rundown of the teams in this year's field (with final rankings):
No. 1 Hedgesville (26-7) - The Eagles have gone the longest between trips to the state tournament among teams in this year's field, making their first visit since 1974, the next-to-last time it was held as a one-class event. Hedgesville totes a nine-game win streak to Power Park and has won 13 of its last 14.
No. 4 Parkersburg South (26-9) - The Patriots, whose last state tourney appearance came in 1987, have been building toward this moment. They won 25 games and made the regional finals last season and boast 14 seniors, a dozen of whom had significant roles in last year's success.
No. 5 Cabell Midland (23-10) - The Knights, who took their lone state title in 2003, play their first state tournament game since 2006, when they fell to South Charleston in the finals. Midland navigated a rocky start, going 4-5 (including four straight losses) but has made it here by winning 10 in a row.
No. 10 Woodrow Wilson (20-10) - The Flying Eagles, back in the big show for the first time since 2007 (when they knocked off Nitro in the semifinals), have caught fire at the end of the season, much like Midland, winning nine of their last 10 and 13 of 15 after beginning the year 0-4.
No. 1 Herbert Hoover (29-4) - The Huskies have held down the top spot in AA much of the season and made it back to Power Park after absorbing a 1-0 loss to Wyoming East in last year's finals. Hoover's only state title came in 2007.
No. 2 Fairmont Senior (27-6) - The Polar Bears are certainly no strangers to Power Park or the state tournament, having made the trip 10 of the last 11 seasons in AAA before dropping a class this school year. Fairmont would like to erase that 0-7 all-time mark in the AAA state finals.
No. 3 Bridgeport (30-6) - The Indians, like Fairmont Senior, participated in the tournament last year as a Class AAA school, only to lose in the semifinals. They make their third trip to Charleston in the last four years for the championship event.
No. 4 Independence (21-9) - The Patriots made it to this point in 2007 and 2009, when they lost in the semifinals each time. It's the first season for Scott Cuthbert, who took over when Joe Goddard - who had been the program's only coach - retired after 36 years.
No. 1 Magnolia (29-4) - The last time Magnolia coach Dave Cisar brought his team to the Kanawha Valley he registered his 800th career victory at Sissonville back in April. This time, he tries to take the Blue Eagles to their third baseball championship, matching the AA crowns the school captured in 1989 and 2006.
No. 2 Charleston Catholic (28-9) - The Irish certainly know the way to Power Park, as this makes their eighth trip in coach Bill Mehle's 12 seasons. However, they have played in the title game just once, falling to Wheeling Central in 2011.
No. 5 Valley (23-7) - The Greyhounds are the only single-A team to reach the state tournament three years running, but they're still looking for their first win at this level, losing all three of their semifinal games. Their first visit came in 2000 at Watt Powell Park.
No. 6 Notre Dame (24-10) - The Irish play their first state tournament game since 2008, when they lost to Buffalo 2-0 in the semifinals despite a solid pitching effort by sophomore Harrison Musgrave - yes, that same Musgrave who later transferred to Bridgeport and eventually became the Big 12 pitcher of the year for West Virginia.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fairmont Senior vs. Bridgeport, 4:30 p.m.
Independence vs. Herbert Hoover, 30 minutes after conclusion of first game
10 a.m. Saturday
Magnolia vs. Notre Dame, 10 a.m.
Valley vs. Charleston Catholic, 30 minutes after conclusion of first game
Saturday, 45 minutes following Class AA awards presentation
Parkersburg South vs. Hedgesville, 5 p.m.
Woodrow Wilson vs. Cabell Midland, 30 minutes after conclusion of first game
Saturday, 45 minutes following Class A awards presentation