The last four years Man High School has competed as a Double-A school as a result of the previous realignment by the WVSSAC.
That came on the heels of Man being Class A for many years through much of the 2000s and the 2010s.
Man had much success in Single-A in all sports, capturing the Class A state baseball championship in 2014 and being the state runner-ups the following season.
Man’s football team went to the Wheeling Super Six in 2009, falling in the Class A state championship game.
The Man softball team also had success, winning back-to-back Class A state titles in 2008 and 2009 and coming within a whisker of taking a third straight crown in 2010 with an extra inning loss to South Harrison in the finals.
Man’s cheerleading team also tasted success during the span, capturing a Class A state championship.
Next year, Man heads back to Single-A and the Hillbillies hope to usher in another golden era in athletics.
This was to be Man’s final spring as a Class AA school in baseball and softball but the entire season was wiped out due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The Hillbillies will go into the 2021 baseball season in a new Class A sectional along with Tug Valley, Tolsia, Sherman, Van, Buffalo and Huntington St. Joe.
Opposite Man and possible regional opponents include: Calhoun County, Gilmer County, Hannan, Ravenswood, Wahama and Wirt County.
Man baseball coach Mike Crosby said he’s looking forward to the 2021 baseball season and likes the Billies’ chances as a Single-A school.
“Oh definitely,” Crosby said. “When you look at the numbers when they did it the last time as some as they voted and put us in Double-A it wasn’t two or three weeks until our numbers dropped below the thresh hold to the numbers between Double-A and Single-A. We have Single-A numbers but we were playing a Double-A schedule.”
When Man was last a Class A school it often played up in competition in all sports, continuing to play area Double-A schools such as Logan, Chapmanville, Westside, Wyoming East, Scott and others.
Crosby said that kind of competition makes your ball team better.
“I’m one who likes competition,” Crosby said. “We play all of these teams. Nothing against schools such as Tug Valley, Van and Tolsia. All of those coaches are very good friends of mine and they do terrific with their programs. St. Joe has had some good teams. But after you look at it after playing the likes of Logan, Chapmanville, Scott, Lincoln County and Mingo Central in a sectional, and then if you are fortunate enough to get past that you are facing Winfield, Nitro or Point Pleasant in the regional. As the old saying goes, it feels like you are going through murderer’s row.”
Man loses six seniors from the team due to graduation but the future looks bright for baseball program.
“I think there would have been a good chance that we could have done some good things,” Crosby said. “We like the direction the program is headed for sure.”
Crosby would have entered his fourth season as the Man helm this spring. The Billies had a winning record last year and were looking to improve this season.
“My first year we had the seven seniors with Cameron Simpson, McCoy, Chapman, Collins and all of those guys,” Crosby said. “We were strong that year. We were short on pitching but man we pounded the baseball. We went down that year to Logan and got beat 2-0. It was a pitcher’s duel. Logan is always going to be good in baseball and so is Chapmanville. The coaching at Logan and Chapmanville has always been good. I have the utmost respect for both of those programs. I used to coach at Logan with Coach Gertz and I know how they do things.”
Another thing that bodes well for Man baseball is its younger crop of players who will be coming through the ranks in the coming years.
Last summer, the Man 11-12-year-old Little League All-Stars nearly won the state championship. Man sat in the driver’s seat but a come-from-behind win by Hurricane forced a winner-take-all championship game at South Charleston’s Little Creek Park.
Man then held a lead in the second game but Hurricane rallied back to claim the state title.
Many of those Man players will be playing ball for the Billies in the coming years.
“I don’t see them losing that fire,” Crosby said of the Little Leaguers. “They gel really well. The good thing is that my assistant coach, Jack Daniels, he initially started coaching them in Little League. He wasn’t on the staff when they went to the state tournament but up until that point he had been coaching those boys. That’s one of the reasons I asked him to be on my staff because I saw him working with those kids. I watched how he coached and how he built them back up. He was phenomenal with that. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that I had to have him on my staff.”
The Man area now has two indoor baseball facilities — one for the area youth that was built last year and the other for the high schoolers.
“It’s going to be a monster help,” Crosby said. “That’s one of the things that we’ve been up against the 8-ball around here. Chapmanville and Logan clearly have a lot more students than we have and a bigger talent pool. I told want to be the one that says ‘Man doesn’t get anything.’ But at some point you just have got to ask. Some people’s got too much pride to ask sometimes but right now we are in the process to update our facilities to get them on par with Logan and Chapmanville and it’s really making a difference.”
Both indoor buildings have automatic pitching machines.
“They have a pitching machine in the new facility at the middle school,” Crosby said. “The machine feeds itself. If a kid wants to go hit he doesn’t need someone else to go flip balls to him. You turn it on and the kid’s dad can sit back and take videos and send it to a coach so he can evaluate it. Same thing in my building. We finally got a pitching machine and the boys go in there in their spare time and takes some swings. It really helped out a whole lot because these days kids can’t throw batting practice at all.”