Editor’s note: This is Part II of a two-part feature on the Man High School softball team. Part I was published last week.
The last time the Man High School softball team competed as a Class A school the Lady Billies had a glorious run.
The Lady Billies, led by All-State pitcher Marlena Frye, won back-to-back Class A state championships in 2008 and 2009.
Then the next year in 2010, Man made a stab at winning an unprecedented third straight state title, something no varsity team in Logan County had ever done.
Man battled back from the loser’s bracket, winning an early morning elimination game on the final day of the state tournament, then topping South Harrison in the finals to force a winner-take-all championship game.
Man ended up losing to South Harrison in the title game, its third game of the day.
The 2021 season will see the Lady Billies back as a Single-A school and Man coach Randy Epperly hopes to usher in another golden era in Man High School softball.
“We were pretty successful in Single-A so we are looking forward to getting back into the mix,” Epperly said.
Next season, Man will enter a new Single-A sectional along with Tug Valley, Tolsia, Sherman, Van, Buffalo and Huntington St. Joe.
Sherman was last year’s Class A state champion but did not get a chance to defend its state title this spring. Man lost twice to the Tide last season.
Opposite Man in the other sectional and possible regional opponents include: Calhoun County, Gilmer County, Hannan, Ravenswood, Wahama and Wirt County.
“Sherman has always been pretty good,” Epperly said. “They won it last year but they lost a lot of players and when you are Single-A it’s harder to reload like some of the bigger schools can year in and year out. They had a really good left-handed pitcher coming back in Autumn Thompson. She was going to be a senior this year. Tug Valley has improved quite a bit. They have a good pitcher and a good catcher. Buffalo is making their way back a little bit. They had been down some. We used to have some real battles with them. I don’t know much about Tolsia or St. Joe.”
This season ended up being a wash as the entire softball campaign was wiped out due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The Lady Billies, coming off last year’s 13-11 season, were hoping to make a statement in their last season in the Double-A ranks.
Man had last advanced to the state tournament in 2016 as a Class A school, eventually falling in the finals.
The last three years the Lady Billies had success as a Double-A school but could not find their groove. Man was the smallest 2A school in the state.
“Even though we were very competitive in Double-A I thought all along that we didn’t feel at home,” Epperly said. “When we were Class A we thought that we were on a more level playing field to where we should be. It probably affects our football and basketball teams more than softball and baseball. We should have never been in Double-A to start with but that’s another story for another time.”
It was a major disappointment to never take the field this spring.
“Sometimes things don’t go as planned but like I told the girls if this is the worst thing that will ever happen the rest of your life then you will have a good life,” Epperly said.
“Right now it’s pretty devastating but I’ve always told them that when they are out there on the ball field that this is not the most important thing in life but at the same time there’s always someone watching you so always put out your best at all times.”
This spring was also to be the first year the West Virginia State Softball Tournament was to be played at South Charleston at the turfed Little Creek Park complex.
The state tournament had been played at Vienna the last 17 years since 2003.
Little Creek Park hosted last year’s 11-12-year-old State Little League Tournament in which the Man All-Stars ended up being the state runner-ups.
Epperly said he got to see the Little Creek complex last summer as he watched his grandson play for the Man 11-12 All-Stars.
“I’ve been up there. I have a grandson who was on the Little League team last year. That complex is nice,” Epperly said of the Little Creek Park complex.
“That will be a big help, not having to go all the way to Vienna. We won’t have to worry about buying motel rooms with it being an hour and a half home. They spent a lot money on building that, no telling how much. That had to be a disappoint for them, too, since they would have hosted the state tournament there for the first year but they will get it for three more years.”
Epperly said he would have no problem playing on turf. His teams have played on turf in the past at Buffalo.
“When we first started going to Buffalo and playing in the Best of the Best I really wasn’t crazy about it,” he said. “But our team adjusted to it over the years. We don’t really have a problem playing on turf. You just have to understand that it plays faster. We won the Best of the Best tourney three years in a row on that turf. That’s a good tournament that they have there each year. I don’t think they have it anymore. Maybe we will have turf fields in Logan County some day.”