CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Collective remarks of surprise were heard in the Kanawha Valley when South Charleston beat the top-ranked Hurricane baseball team on April 2.
It was an upset, to be sure, but the Black Eagles’ 9-7 victory at Lola Meeks Memorial Field on April 2 was anything but a fluke.
The win was the second of South Charleston’s current six-game winning streak during which coach Kenny Samms’ team continues to fly under the radar.
The Black Eagles -- who were not ranked in the Daily Mail’s Sports Writer Class AAA rankings -- have won six of their first 10 games, but they haven’t achieved their recent success through defense or pitching.
Truth is, South Charleston has been hitting the ball with impressive regularity during its win streak, which included victories over Hurricane, George Washington and Woodrow Wilson.
During its four-game losing streak to begin the season, the Black Eagles averaged 1.5 runs, 4 hits and 3.8 errors. They were 1-of-17 (.058) in a 12-0 season-opening loss to Woodrow Wilson, and, SC’s paltry hitting numbers through their first four games were saved only by a 9-of-31 showing in a 6-5 loss to Capital.
Fast forward to game nine, and the team batting average has jumped from .182 in the first four games to .284.
Leading the way is Trevor Sampson (.385), followed by Isaiah Moss (.367) and Brandon Knapper (.355) .
“We’re putting the ball in play and if you can put pressure on the defense, you have a chance,” said Samms, who is 133-113 with a state championship (2006) in his ninth season. “That’s what we try to do.”
The Black Eagles are in Myrtle Beach this week for the Mingo Bay Classic. South Charleston is in the Aynor A pool and will face West Springfield, Va., at 5 p.m. today.
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SPEAKING OF the Mingo Bay Classic, 18 West Virginia high school teams are participating in the tournament, which begins today and will conclude with the championship games on Friday.
The Kanawha Valley teams competing this week are Capital, Nitro and South Charleston.
Also participating from the Mountain State are East Fairmont, Elkins, Greenbrier West, Hedgesville, Jefferson, Logan, Martinsburg, Musselman, Notre Dame, Oak Glen, PikeView, Princeton, Spring Mills, Trinity and Washington.
There are 72 teams from six states competing in 18 pools at 10 locations on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The semifinals are set for Thursday with the finals on Friday.
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GEORGE WASHINGTON is headed to Cocoa Beach, Fla., for a weeklong trip riding a two-game winning streak, which came on the heels of a three-game losing streak.
Despite the Patriots’ ups and downs, coach Chad Campbell isn’t ready to panic.
“The good thing about baseball is you don’t have to play your best until the end,” said Campbell, who is in his ninth year at GW with a 149-122 career mark. “And, you don’t get outside a lot to practice before you play.”
The Patriots also are in the same position as many Kanawha Valley teams -- no dominating pitchers. That means GW will have to outscore opponents and not rely on a shutdown performance from any of its hurlers.
“We have a solid group of pitchers,” Campbell said. “We don’t have what I would call an ace on the mound. We have to score some runs in some games and these guys understand that.”
That’s where centerfielder Austin Griffith comes in. The senior is batting .372 with four home runs and a team-leading 14 RBI. Last season he finished with a .316 average with no home runs and 23 RBI.
“Austin has been pretty consistent,” Campbell said.
This week, the Patriots have doubleheaders on Tuesday and Thursday and are planning a team barbecue on Tuesday night. Some of his players, Campbell said, are going to Tropicana Field to watch the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays. They begin a four-game series on Thursday.
Campbell said he likes to take a trip to Florida once every four years.
“We went down there four years ago and had a pretty good time,” he said. “We took the approach that we want to take one class to Florida, so we’ll go every four years.”
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CAPITAL HAD LOST four consecutive games entering Chapmanville’s Daffer Tournament, culminated by its 7-5 defeat to South Charleston on Thursday.
Much of the Cougars’ struggles have come in the hitting department, where they are batting just .273 and have only one regular -- senior Seth Roadcap -- batting above .350.
Roadcap is hitting .400, leads the team in home runs with two and is tied for the team lead in RBI with seven.
The only other Capital player hitting above .350 is 15-year-old sophomore Jesse Martin. The stepson of University of Charleston women’s basketball coach Adam Collins is hitting .364 with four hits in 11 at-bats.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837. Follow him on Twitter @richdailymail