CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A modest collection of high school baseball sectionals begin around the Kanawha Valley this week with one expected to provide more intrigue than the others combined.
Class AAA’s Region 4, which has produced either the state champion or runner-up in five of the last six seasons, will open Monday with Section 4 — Spring Valley, Huntington and 2013 runner-up Cabell Midland.
Region 2 with Nitro, Logan and St. Albans kicks off Thursday at St. Albans’ Loftis Field when the Red Dragons face Logan.
The Wildcats won the 2005 and 2008 Class AA title, but haven’t been to the state tournament as a triple-A team since the 2002 campaign when they lost to Hurricane in the championship game. Additionally, Logan moved from Region 3 to Region 4 in the last Secondary School Activities Commission reclassification in 2012.
For St. Albans’ part, the Red Dragons are seeking their first trip to the state tournament since it moved to Appalachian Power Park in 2005. St. Albans lost in the semifinals of the last tourney at Watt Powell Park to eventual champion Ripley.
“It’s been a frustrating season,” St. Albans coach Rick Whitman said. “We’ve kind of played well at times and really bad at times. We go to GW and get beat 19-2 (on May 1) and then beat them 5-3 (on May 5). That’s a microcosm of our season.
“We’ve had trouble just catching the ball this year. We’ve played some really bad defense and our pitching hasn’t been great and we strike out a lot. That’s a not-so-good combination.”
Region 4 is still considered among the state’s strongest regions, which includes Section 1. That’s home of coach Will Isaacs’ Winfield Generals, who will begin their quest for a third consecutive regional championship berth on Wednesday against Point Pleasant in their best-of-three road series.
Section 3 doesn’t begin until May 20 with Lincoln County starting its best-of-three series against Hurricane at Lola Meeks Memorial Field.
As for last year’s state tournament second-place team — Cabell Midland — offensive and defensive production hasn’t been what coach Tracy Brumfield had hoped for.
“You’re looking at (18-10) right now with a veteran group coming back,” Brumfield said. “It is what it is. We probably should have four losses this year, but you can’t turn it on and turn it off.
“I told them you have to come out and play every game. Bottom line is, hopefully we’re playing our best ball at the end of the year.”
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IN REGION 3, Capital visits Riverside in the three-team Section 2 that includes Ripley.
In a key game to begin the tournament, the Warriors are expected to send senior and West Virginia State recruit Cam Norris to the mound to face any one of three Capital pitchers — Kaleb Kinder (probable starter), Austin Hupp or Brandon Thomas.
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HERBERT HOOVER continues defense of its second consecutive Class AA crown and its third consecutive visit to the Class AA title game in the Region 4, Section 1 tournament at Nicholas County High School.
The top-seeded Huskies get a bye and awaits the winner of Thursday’s game between Clay County and the host Grizzlies.
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CLASS A’s Region 4, Section 4 begins today at Gator Field when St. Joseph faces Buffalo.
This section is expected to come down to Valley rivals Charleston Catholic — the defending Class A champion — and the Bison, who haven’t made it to the state tournament since losing to Wheeling Central 11-4 in the 2008 title game.
The loser of Monday’s game will face Charleston Catholic on Tuesday. If Catholic and Buffalo advance past Tuesday, they will begin a best-of-three series on Wednesday. The Irish would likely throw ace Connor Golden against Buffalo No. 1 Aaron Lewis.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837. Follow him on Twitter @richdailymail.