CHAPMANVILLE — It was an unceremonious end to the Chapmanville Regional High School baseball team’s season a year ago.
The Tigers finished 22-9 and failed to get out of their own section as Chapmanville was ousted two games to one by rival Scott. The Tigers fell 9-8 in the finals to the Skyhawks at Madison in a sectional tourney which took 12 days to play after numerous rain delays and halts to action due to the WESTEST.
The Tigers lost to Scott 5-4 in last year’s sectional opener and then came back to win 9-5 at home over the Skyhawks to force a winner-take-all final.
On the heels of the 2011 Class AA state championship won by the Tigers and an appearance in the 2012 regional tourney, it was a setback.
Chapmanville, though, is back and stronger than ever this spring.
With plenty of returning starters and role players, lots of experience on the mound and another year of baseball under the belts of its younger players, optimism is high for CRHS.
The Tigers are coached by 13th-year mentor Eric Ellis, who has a 273-116 record and a 70.2 winning percentage in the last dozen years.
Chapmanville is set to open the season on Tuesday at Mount View, weather permitting. The home opener is Wednesday against Tolsia in a doubleheader, also weather permitting. CRHS then has another home game on Thursday evening against Mingo Central at Ted Ellis Field.
“We’ve had some good workouts up until this point,” Ellis said. “Everything has went well. We have a bunch of veterans that played last year. We haven’t had to spend as much time putting everything in. We had a couple of scrimmages against Cabell Midland and Logan, two outstanding Triple-A programs, and we thought we played well in both. We’re really excited about the season coming up.”
Ellis said pitching, experience and depth are the Tigers’ strengths.
“We feel like our pitching depth is going to be good,” he said. “We feel like we’ve got five or six guys that we feel good about on the mound, guys with game experience. Defensively, we were pretty good last year, plus we return eight staters and four or five other kids that have some experience. Our experience and depth is what we feel most comfortable about.”
On the mound, you have to start with Nick Brumfield.
The senior is back on the hill and will be the Tigers’ ace.
Brumfield, a right-hander, was 5-0 last season with a 1.78 ERA. He struck out 33 batters and walked only three in 35.1 innings of work. Chapmanville, however, lost a good one in pitcher Dustin Conley due to graduation.
“Nick has pitched for us for three years,” Coach Ellis said. “He’s been a solid starter for us. He tends to throw strikes and lets his defense play behind him. If he continues that formula this year he will have another successful season.”
Junior left-hander Trey Dalton is also back on the hill and will be in the Tigers’ starting rotation. Dalton was 4-2 last season with a 2.25 ERA and just helped lead the Chapmanville basketball to the state tournament.
Tristan Thompson, a hard-throwing junior right-hander is also back. When not pitching, he is the Tigers’ starting shortstop. In 2013, Thompson was 1-3 with a 4.87 ERA in 20.1 innings pitched. He fanned 28 and walked nine.
“Trey is just now getting back from basketball,” Ellis said. “He and Tristan Thompson pitched a lot for us at the end of the season. They are experienced pitchers and we expect big things out of both of those guys. Trey has put on some weight and has added strength. He has picked up some velocity on his fastball.”
Austin Ellis, another junior, will also be counted on for Chapmanville on the hill. Ellis was 3-0 and had pin-point control last season as he struck out 16 batters and walked none over the course of 13 innings.
“He’s gained a lot of velocity on his fast ball,” Coach Ellis said of Austin Ellis. “He’s also working on a good breaking ball that he’s developed. He’s been a big surprise and I think that he’s going to give us a lot of quality innings.”
Junior Joe Zigmond and sophomore Alex Berry give the Tigers more pitching depth. Berry pitched five innings last season and allowed no runs while fanning three. Zigmond didn’t see any varsity pitching action a year ago.
“Zigmond and Berry will probably pitch in relief for us and we hope they can give us some good innings,” Ellis said.
Brock Dalton, a senior, could also pitch some.
“We’ve moved him back to the pitcher’s mound and he’ll be able to give us some innings out of the bullpen,” Ellis said.
Chris Bailey, a freshman, is a young arm Coach Ellis and his staff are also looking at.
“He’s throwing really well,” Ellis said of Bailey. “He’s going to continue to get better and better. We think he’ll give us some starts as well.”
At catcher, Jordan Cook, a part-time starter from last year’s team, is back. He batted .094 last season with five RBI and a double.
“He’s a junior and he started a lot as a freshman,” Ellis said. “He got some starts last year. He’s doing a solid job behind the plate. I don’t think he’s had a pass ball in either scrimmage.”
Bailey and Ryan Craddock, a pair of freshmen, are Cook’s backups.
Brent Bigley returns as Chapmanville’s starting first baseman. Bigley hit .429 at the plate with 13 RBI last season.
“Brent was hurt half the year last year and was our leading hitter,” Ellis said. “Brent’s a solid hitter. He will probably hit in the clean-up spot for us. He’s a line drive hitter.”
Brent Clay and Zigmond will most likely see time at first base as well. Clay was Chapmanville’s designated hitter in 2013 and batted .395 with 12 RBI and a couple of doubles.
“Brent will DH for us and play at first and third,” Ellis said. “He was injured, too, for us last year and missed about half the season. He hit real well.”
At second base, the Tigers have starter William Copley back. Last year, Copley hit .394 with one home run and 11 RBI. He also had five doubles and a triple.
“He had a really strong ending to the season,” Ellis said of Copley. “He’s picked up where he left off last season. He’s swinging the bat really well and has always played a solid second base defensively.”
At shortstop, Chapmanville is solid with returning starter Thompson. The junior shook off a slow start last season and ended up hitting .379 with seven doubles and 19 RBI.
Thompson was also the top basestealer last year for Chapmanville with nine steals in 11 attempts. Copley and Brock Dalton were First-Team All-Cardinal Conference selections in 2013. Thompson was on the second team.
“Tristan was an all-conference shortstop last year. He’s played a lot of summer ball. He started some games as a freshman, so he’s a two-year starter,” Coach Ellis said. “He’s one of our team leaders.”
Berry will likely be a utility infielder for Chapmanville and can play either short or second depending on who is pitching.
“Alex has gotten a lot stronger. I think the year of playing quarterback for the football team has really helped him develop,” Ellis said. “His arm is a lot stronger. He’s also looked good in our scrimmages.”
Austin Ellis and Bailey are vying for playing time at third base. Ellis hit .304 last year with eight RBI and a double.
“Austin started some last year as a sophomore. He’s probably a little better defensively and Bailey is a little better offensively,” Coach Ellis said. “They are both playing well, so they are both going to be getting time.”
Chapmanville returns an experienced outfield as all three starters are back — senior Brady Cox in left, junior Brock Dalton in center and senior Adam Dingess in right.
Cox, a three-sport standout and a member of Chapmanville’s state tournament-bound basketball team, batted .276 with a team-high three triples last season. He was also 7-for-7 in stolen base attempts.
Dalton had a .388 average for the Tigers last season with one homer and 19 RBI.
Dingess hit .256 last year with seven RBI, four doubles and one triple.
Ellis said Cox will be sitting out the first few games due to getting a late start.
“With Brady playing basketball he’s going to have to miss the first few games to get his practices in,” Ellis said. “All three of our outfielders have played a lot of baseball for us.”
Sophomore Jacob Dingess and junior Tyler Neil will also see some time in the outfield. Dingess was 5-for-7 at the plate in varsity at-bats last season with two RBI for a .714 clip. Neil had eight at-bats last season and five stolen bases as he was often used as a pinch-runner.
“Jacob and Tyler have played a lot in the outfield during the preseason because Adam Dingess has been out due to a hamstring injury,” Coach Ellis said. “Those two started in the corners for us in our two scrimmages. Both played well. We feel that we have depth and if the injury-bug hits us we feel like we’ve got some quality guys who can step in and we won’t miss a beat.”
One of the season highlights is the annual Daffer Memorial Tournament, which is slated for April 11-12 at Chapmanville’s Ted Ellis Field. The Tigers are set to battle with Class AAA Capital and 2A Cardinal Conference and regional rival Wayne in the tourney.
Chapmanville played Capital and Wayne in last year’s Daffer tourney, winning 2-1 over the Cougars and 9-2 over the Pioneers.
“The tournament is always a great event,” Ellis said. “It’s something that we always look forward to. We’ve got the same four teams in it and they all like to come. It’s become a great thing in the community.”
Also on the ‘14 schedule is a second game with Wayne and conference home-and-homes with Herbert Hoover and rival Scott, the Tigers’ Class AA sectional foe.
Chapmanville also has home-and-homes against Class AAA Point Pleasant, Class A county rival Man, Kentucky team Belfry and Single-A team Van.
The Tigers are also set to face off with Class AAA Ripley this season and are slated to play in the St. Albans and Man tournaments.
“We’re looking forward to the Ed Carter Tournament at St. Albans,” Ellis said. “It’s us and five Triple-A teams. We’ll play Hurricane and St. Albans in our bracket. Logan, Winfield and GW are in the other bracket. We’re definitely looking forward to that type of competition. We’ve got a strong schedule this year. It was done intentionally because we feel like we are going to be pretty good. I wanted to set up the strongest schedule possible to get us ready for tournament play. Our goal is to make a run and try to get us another title. The schedule will prepare us, it’s just a matter of getting it done.”
For the third straight season, Chapmanville will not play Class AAA traditional county rival Logan. The series was shelved at the end of the 2011 season when the Tigers were 35-3 and won the Class AA state title.
As always, Ellis said the Cardinal Conference will be strong.
“It’s the usual suspects,” he said. “Hoover is going to be strong again and Poca is going to be good. Wayne, Sissonville and Scott are also going to be good. Everyone looks good. We feel like we are going to be right up there at the top with them. Last year was kind of a rebuilding year for us. But in our two scrimmages we went up with two of the big boys and we feel real good about where we are at.”
Ellis said he looks for yet another tough sectional with Scott.
“Anytime you play a rival it’s going to be a battle,” Ellis said. “They came on and had a really good year last year and they got us. We’re ready to get back out after them this year. We’ve got two of the three games here.”
2014 Chapmanville Regional
High School Baseball Schedule:
March 24: at Mount View, 6 p.m.
March 25: Tolsia (DH), 5 p.m.
March 27: Mingo Central, 6 p.m.
March 29: Ripley, 2 p.m.
March 31: Belfry, Ky., 5:30 p.m.
April 1: at Man, 6:30 p.m.
April 2: Scott, 6:30 p.m.
April 3: at Van, 6:30 p.m.
April 5: at Sissonville, 3 p.m.
April 7: at Belfry, Ky., 5:30 p.m.
April 9: at Poca, 6:30 p.m.
April 11: Capital (Daffer Tourney), 7 p.m.
April 12: Wayne (Daffer Tourney) 3:30 p.m.
April 14: at Herbert Hoover, 7 p.m.
April 16: at Point Pleasant, 6:30 p.m.
April 17: Van, 6:30 p.m.
April 19: vs. Moorefield (at Man tournament), 12 p.m.
April 21: Sissonville, 7 p.m.
April 25: vs. Hurricane (at Ed Carter Tournament, St. Albans), 1 p.m.
April 25: vs. St. Albans (at Ed Carter Tournament, St. Albans), 4 p.m.
April 26: at Ed Carter Tournament, St. Albans, TBA
April 28: at Wayne, 7 p.m.
April 29: at Scott, 6:30 p.m.
May 2: Poca, 6:30 p.m.
May 3: Point Pleasant, 3 p .m.
May 6: at Mingo Central, 4:30 p.m.
May 7: Man, 6:30 p.m.
May 8: Mount View, 6 p.m.
May 9: Herbert Hoover, 7 p.m.