Perhaps this isn’t what Poca first-year baseball coach Mike Hutchinson signed up for, but as it is, the Dots are two games from the state tournament.
What stands in their way is the defending Class AA state champion Herbert Hoover Huskies (25-5), who Poca (11-20) faces at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Al Billings Park.
The Class AA Region 4 semifinal kicks off a week of regionals, with 48 teams remaining and the state tournament at Appalachian Power Park looming on June 5.
“Our record isn’t what we expected it to be,” said Hutchinson, who took over the head coaching position at Poca when Gene Estel stepped down following the 2013 season.
“But, we started putting it together at the end. A lot of the guys improved.”
Junior Noah Frampton leads Poca with a .404 average, while adding five home runs, 28 RBI and 26 runs. Younger brother Luke, a freshman, is hitting .400 with 23 runs and six stolen bases.
Poca already had lost two regular season games to Sissonville, but took two of three in the Section 2 tournament. The Indians, who had their share of problems this season, had won four of five games entering the postseason.
The Dots, however, had lost seven of nine before its modest postseason surge.
“What we told them is don’t worry about the regular season and don’t worry about our record,” he said. “We have to make the routine plays, find a way to get on base, have a productive out like with a sacrifice fly or moving runners over.”
Easier said than done against a Hoover team that owns a 1.66 team earned run average.
One of two seniors — Hunter White or Tristan Fields — is expected to take the mound tonight. Their ERA is a combined 1.22 with 115 strikeouts and just 22 walks.
Fields pitched in their meeting on April 7, going the distance with seven strikeouts and four walks in a 12-1 Hoover win. White struck out 15 with three walks in a complete game against Poca on March 31, an 8-0 Hoover win.
While the Huskies’ pitching staff is deep — Cody Bowen (4-1, 3.40 ERA) is the team’s third starter — their offense hasn’t missed a beat from last season.
The team batting average is .383 with 25 home runs and 43 doubles in 30 games.
The production hasn’t stopped Herbert Hoover coach Brian Young from altering the bottom of his lineup, moving juniors Luke Bowman and Tommy Parrish and senior Derrek Dodd in and out of the lineup.
Bowman is batting .256, but has struck out only five times in 39 at bats. Parrish’s batting average is .197, but he has 20 RBI, and Dodd is hitting .333 with 11 walks and only two strikeouts.
“I feel confident in the kids we have in there,” Young said. “We’ve been alternating them, depending on the pitching rotation and who is going to be hit for. They’ve all hit the ball.”
The winner of this game advances to Wednesday’s Region 4 championship game against the winner of the other semifinal between Section 3 champion Chapmanville and Section 4 titlist Wayne.
The regional final will be hosted by the Chapmanville-Wayne winner.
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HURRICANE AND Cabell Midland will meet in Ona on Monday for a spot in the Region 4 championship game.
The teams met only once during the regular season with Hurricane earning a 9-5 victory on April 5 at Lola Meeks Memorial Field.
The winner advances to Thursday’s Region 4 title game against the winner of Monday’s Point Pleasant-Nitro semifinal at Brandon Matthew Sneed Field.
Both games are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.
The title game will be played at the winner of the Hurricane-Cabell Midland matchup.
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RIVERSIDE HOSTS George Washington in the Region 3 semifinals at Quincy for a spot in the regional title game.
In their one meeting this season, the Patriots handed the Warriors a 10-0 decision at Floyd B. Wilcox Field on April 22.
The winner moves to Thursday’s final at either Riverside or George Washington against the winner of Monday’s semifinal between Shady Spring and Greenbrier East, which is set for Fairlea.
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TUESDAY’S CLASS A Region 4 semifinal features Wahama and Buffalo at Gator Field.
Buffalo has won 10 of its last 13 games, including two out of three against Charleston Catholic in the double-elimination Section 4 tournament.
Wahama is riding a four-game winning streak and — since opening the season with back-to-back losses to Charleston Catholic and Point Pleasant — hasn’t lost consecutive games to West Virginia opponents.
The winner of that game will host the Region 4 title game on Thursday when it will face the winner of Monday’s Parkersburg Catholic-Gilmer County game.