MAN — It was a historic season for the Man High School baseball team and head coach Larry Vance.
The Hillbillies improved from a 7-23 season in 2013 to Class A state champions this year.
Man, which finished 21-12 and beat Clarksburg Notre Dame 12-10 in 10 innings in the Class A final at Charleston’s Appalachian Power Park, was honored this week as Coach Vance was named as the West Virginia Coaches Association State Coach of the Year.
For the Billies, it was the first-ever boys’ state championship of any kind.
Vance had led the Man baseball team to Class A state runner-up finishes twice before in back-to-back seasons in 2009 and 2010.
The Man High School football team was state runner-up four times in 1977, 1980 and 1984 under former coach Tootie Carter and another time in 2009 under current head coach Harvey Arms.
The Man boys’ basketball team made it to the 1990 state championship game only to fall short.
This time, the Billies did it and Vance was honored for turning around the Man baseball program.
Man, led by left-handed pitchers Braden Griffin, a first-team Class A all-state selection, and Jake Adkins, improved in all parts of the game.
The pitching, however, showed the biggest improvement.
Last year, Man’s pitchers struggled and had a sky-high 6.54 team ERA. This year, that was lowered greatly to 2.87.
Then, coupled with outstanding defense, which was on display at the state tournament and a hard-higging offense, Man fielded a sound team this season.
Man was dominant in post-season play, shutting out Tug Valley 12-0 and 14-0 in the Class A sectional tournament, then blanking Sherman, 5-0, in the regional semifinals before knocking off Greenbrier West, 3-1, in the Region 3 finals.
The Billies beat St. Marys, 3-1, in the Class A state tournament semifinals before holding off Notre Dame in the state championship game.
“Last year’s club only won seven games and the difference this year is that we are a year older and got of lot of expericence from a year ago,” Vance said. “We were just so young last year but we came on strong at the end of last year winning several games.”
Griffin was 4-3 this season with a team-best 1.09 ERA. He tossed 55 innings and struck out a staff-high 85 batters and walked 24 to go along with one save.
Adkins was 5-3 with a 1.14 ERA. He pitched 49 innings, fanning 59 and walking only 12. As a whole, Man pitchers recorded 225 strikeouts and walked 103 in 195.1 innings of work.
“The pitching has been good,” Vance said. “It’s the best one two to take to the states in Braden Griffin and Jake Adkins. Before we had only one top pitcher and that kind of hurt us. Both are underclassmen as Griffin is a junior and Adkins just a sophomore. I’m tickled to death that Jake came out for baseball this year for us. He has won some big games. Braden has pitched against a lot of Class AA teams that we have played and they have said that Braden is the best pitcher that they have faced all year.”
Griffin also led the Billies at the plate this season. He was 6-for-9 in the state tournament with two doubles and two RBI. In the championship game, he was 3-for-6 with an RBI. Against St. Marys, he went 3-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI.
For the season, Griffin hit an impressive .479 with five homers, 31 RBI, 14 doubles and one triple. On the mound, Griffin notched the win in the St. Marys game. He was 3-1 with a 1.09 ERA and 85 strikeouts heading into state.
Several other Man players stepped up and had fine seasons.
Only two senior starters — catcher Cayce Mullins and first baseman Noah Maynard — will be lost to graduation.
With so many players back in 2015, Coach Vance’s Billies will be among the favorites to win next year’s state championship.