CHAPMANVILLE — Game day is here and the Tigers are hungry.
Three years ago, the Chapmanville Regional High School baseball team finished off its magical 2011 season by winning the Class AA state championship and closing out 35-3.
It was the first ever state title for the CRHS Tigers at the new school. The old Chapmanville High School Tiger baseball team had won Class AA state titles in 1987 and 1997.
Now, the 2014 Tigers have their chance.
Chapmanville is scheduled to open play in the Class AA state tourney with Friday’s 5 p.m. contest against Bridgeport at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston. The Tigers enter at 29-6. The Indians are 30-6.
The winner will move on to play either Fairmont Senior or Independence in Saturday’s 4 p.m. state championship game. Fairmont is 22-7 while the Independence Patriots are 26-7. The two teams meet in the other Class AA state semifinal on Friday at 7:45 p.m.
Chapmanville advanced with last week’s nail-biting 2-1 win over 12-20 Poca in the Class AA Region 4 championship game at Chapmanville’s Ted Ellis Field.
It was a much closer call than most expected. But given the Dots’ upset win over No. 1-ranked Herbert Hoover in the region semifinals, Chapmanville knew it was going to be in for a tough fight.
A tough fight is exactly what the Tigers have in store with Bridgeport, a traditionally strong baseball program in the Mountain State.
However, the Tigers feel confident heading into the state tourney.
With a strong pitching staff, improved hitting from last year’s team and a solid defense, Chapmanville feels it has the right ingredients to win two games and take a fourth state championship.
“Pitching is going to carry you,” said Chapmanville 13-year head coach Eric Ellis. “Pitching and defense will win championships. Have you to score runs but pitching and defense are the main ingredients. You have to throw strikes and not give away any free things. You have to make them earn everything that they get.”
The state tournament draws thousands of fans every year to Appalachian Power Park, the home to the minor league West Virginia Power.
The weather is expected to be warm and sunny and the crowds are expected to be big.
“You have to be able to handle that atmosphere and that’s a big key, too,” Ellis said.
Appalachian Power Park, which opened in 2005 and is located on the east end of Charleston, seats 4,500 fans and is known for its deep dimensions. It’s 330 feet to left field, 400 to straightaway center and 320 down the line in right. The power alleys are also quite deep.
Chapmanville plays in a big park, too, by high school standards, as Ted Ellis Field boasts a 380-foot sign to center.
That should help the Tigers, which are used to a large playing field.
“It’s a big park but it’s nothing that should be foreign to us,” Ellis said. “Our own ballpark is pretty spacious. We’re used to playing in a big field. It’s just playing in front of that many people. That’s the big key and how the kids react. Usually when we get to Charleston we’ve had pretty good success there. The last three years they (Bridgeport) has lost in the first round, so mentally, hopefully that will play a part in it.”
Power Park, which cost $25 million to build, also plays host to Marshall University and WVU for select conference games. The University of Charleston also uses ballpark, which is affectionately known as “The App.”
In 2012, Stadium Journey Magazine named Appalachian Power Park among the 10 best minor league baseball parks in the nation, and number 58 in its list of 100 best athletic venues worldwide.
The Tigers are excited to be back at The App.
Chapmanville has had a chip on its shoulder all season long after losing to Scott in last year’s sectional championship game.
That was motivation in itself.
With many players back and returning a year stronger and a year older, the Tigers knew they had a chance to reach the state tourney.
It was theirs for the taking.
They just had to work hard, get better and go get it.
They did just that.
“Last year, we were really young,” Ellis said. “The kids just weren’t really strong physically but they have grown a lot, got in the weight room and have got a lot stronger. That’s made all of the difference in the world. We got better as the season went on. Any time that you get to Charleston it’s pretty exciting, regardless of the situation. We’re looking forward to getting over there to Charleston and having a lot of fun Friday.”
Chapmanville’s hitting has improved greatly this spring as opposed to 2013.
“I think a lot of the improvement in the hitting has to do with the physical strength. They can drive the ball now,” Ellis said. “Last year, we had to find the perfect hole to get a hit. This year, we’ve been able to drive it a lot better. Singles last year are doubles and triples now. We’re excited to be there and we’re ready to go get it.”
Chapmanville is led at the plate by senior second baseman William Copley, who brings in a .441 batting average into the state tourney. He also has two homers, a team-high 38 RBI, a team-best 17 doubles, four triples and 10 stolen bases in 10 attempts.
Freshman third baseman Chris Bailey is hitting .432 with two homers, 27 RBI, 13 doubles and four steals.
Senior left fielder Brady Cox has a .415 average and is tied for team-best in home runs with three. He also has 24 RBI, two doubles, a triple and 12 stolen bases.
Brent Bigley, Chapmanville’s senior first baseman, has a .367 clip with a team-best three home runs, 28 RBI, seven doubles, a triple and one steal.
Austin Ellis comes in with a .350 batting average with 18 RBI, eight doubles, three triples and four stolen bases.
Junior shortstop Tristan Thompson is also hitting .350 heading into the state tournament with 18 RBI, 10 doubles, three triples and a team-high 17 stolen bases.
Catcher Jordan Cook is hitting .329 with 19 RBI, seven doubles, three triples and four steals.
Senior centerfielder Brock Dalton goes in with a .318 average with 23 RBI, four doubles, three triples and 14 steals.
Right fielder Adam Dingess has a .310 average with eight RBI, six doubles and five stolen bases.
Jacob Dingess enters with eight steals and a .481 average in 27 at-bats.
Chapmanville has a .360 team batting average with 19 home runs.
On the mound, the Tigers have a 2.89 ERA with 283 strikeouts and 103 issued walks in 210.2 innings pitched. The opponents’ pitchers have an ERA of 8.81 against the Tigers. The CRHS foes have just a .210 batting average against Tiger hurlers.
Bailey leads the way with a 5-1 record and 1.77 ERA. He has pitched 31.2 innings and has allowed only eight earned runs with 36 strikeouts and 25 walks.
Left-hander Trey Dalton, a junior, is 6-3 on the hill with a 2.44 ERA. Dalton has logged 57.1 innings and has given up only 20 earned runs with a team-best 73 strikeouts and 30 walks.
Austin Ellis is 4-2 with a 2.84 ERA with 41 Ks and only four walks in a 24.2-inning worksheet.
Thompson, who pitched Chapmanville to the regional win over the Poca Dots, is 5-0 this season with a 3.08 ERA. He has hurled 38.2 innings and has yielded 17 earned runs with 56 strikeouts and 14 walks.
Nick Brumfield, a senior right-hander, is 5-0 with a 4.24 ERA. In 38 innings, he has fanned 46 and walked just 15.
Alex Berry (0-0, 5.73), Brock Dalton (1-0, 0.00), Tyler Shannon (0-0, 0.00) and Joe Zigmond (1-0, 3.00) have also seen action on the mound.
West Virginia State
At Appalachian Power Park
Gilmer County (25-10) vs. Notre Dame (26-6), late
St. Marys (29-2) vs. Man (19-12), late
Washington (23-4) vs. Hurricane (27-7), 10 a.m.
Riverside (19-10) vs. Wheeling Park (20-6), approximately 12:45 p.m.
Bridgeport (30-6) vs. Chapmanville (29-6), 5 p.m.
Fairmont Senior (22-7) vs. Independence (26-7), approximately 7:45 p.m.
Class A, 10 a.m.
Class AAA, approximately 1 p.m.
Class AA, approximately 4 p.m.