VIENNA — Ask any high school softball coach and they will tell you the same thing.
The key to winning the state championship is avoiding the loser’s bracket.
Since the West Virginia High School Softball Tournament is in a double-elimination format, every team wants to win the first two games on the first day.
If you do that, you automatically advance to the state championship game and are just one win away from taking the title.
If you split the first day, you have to fight your way out of the loser’s bracket on the second day, starting with the dreaded 10 a.m. elimination game. Then if you win that one, you have to win twice more in order to take the crown, meaning you would have to play three games in one day.
It’s not, but rarely do you see a team fight it’s way back from the loser’s bracket and win the state title.
Logan, which played the last three years in the Class AAA state tourney and lost each time in the loser’s bracket, is hoping for a fast start in this year’s state tourney, which begins today.
The No. 5-ranked Lady Cats (27-5) are scheduled to open play in the 3A state tourney on Wednesday at noon against Parkersburg South (22-12) at Jackson Park in Vienna. John Marshall (32-3) played Robert C. Byrd (22-13) in Game One at 10 a.m.
The double-elimination tourney is scheduled to continue later on Wednesday with second-round contests at 5 and 7 p.m. Then on Thursday, an elimination game is slated for 10 a.m. with the state finals set for 2:30 p.m. A second championship game, if necessary, would then be played at 5 p.m.
Lady Cats’ coach Randy Robinette, who has coached the Logan softball team since the 1980s, knows the importance of winning on the first day.
“You’ve got to win the first two,” Robinette said. “It is so critical. Realistically, very rarely does anyone come out of the loser’s bracket and win but it can be done and it’s been done in the past. It’s really important to be 2-0 after that first day. That’s the key point. But we’re prepared to do that, to come out (of the loser’s bracket) if it comes to that point. I don’t think the kids would have any problem doing that but hopefully it doesn’t have to be done that way.”
Robinette said he’s proud of his team for making it back to Vienna.
“I’m very proud. It’s no small feat,” he said. “To my knowledge it’s the first time the softball team has made it to the state tournament four times in a row. It goes back to senior leadership and having good players. We’ve done an outstanding job throughout the course of the year. My assistant coaches have done an outstanding job this season. Jason Davis has done a great job as always. Lindsay Noe has helped us tremendously, especially with our hitting. Alice Hensley has also done an outstanding job as well. That’s where the credit goes.”
Senior pitchers Morgan Aguirre and Taylor Norman have given Logan one of the best one-two pitching punches in the state this spring.
“They have pitched very very well throughout the course of the year,” Robinette said. “We’ve done a good job pitching-wise for the most part. Hopefully they can carry us through this week.”
Logan has also improved greatly at the plate.
It’s been one of the keys to the team’s success.
“I think that’s one of the improvements that we’ve made this year,” Robinette said. “We’ve had a couple of kids step up and have great years for us. The key for us is we’ve got to continue that in the state tournament. We can’t go up there and not hit like we did last year.”
This is the first time since 2008 only one Logan County team reached the state tourney. That year, Man won the first of back-to-back Class A state titles.
In 2009 and 2010 all three county teams — Logan, Chapmanville and Man — went to state. In the 2010 state tournament, all three teams were playing at the same time on Vienna’s three fields in the Class AAA, AA and Single-A state finals.
Last year, Logan and Chapmanville went. Each team was ousted with 1-2 records.
The Logan softball team is the last Logan County spring sports squad still playing.
On Monday night, the Chapmanville Regional High School baseball team was hoping to advance in the regional tourney but lost 6-5 to Wayne at home, leaving the Tigers two games short of next week’s state baseball tournament in Charleston.
Logan’s baseball team was upset last week in the 3A sectional finals at South Charleston. It was the first time the Wildcats hadn’t won a sectional championship since 1999.
The Lady Cats are the county’s last stand.
“Hopefully, the kids will rise to the challenge and we can put everything together and do real well,” Coach Robinette said.