CHAPMANVILLE — When the Chapmanville Regional High School softball team takes to the diamond this season it will be five years since the Lady Tigers last played in the state tournament.
That’s a long time.
Especially when it comes to the Lady Tigers which won Class AA state titles in 1999, 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2010.
Chapmanville hopes to make it back to Vienna this spring with a return to the state tourney.
With a talented group of returnees, headed by ace pitcher Kenzie McCann, and a crop of talented newcomers and transfers, this could be a good year for Chapmanville.
Chapmanville is coming off a successful 2015 season in which the Lady Tigers were 21-10 overall and 9-4 in the Cardinal Conference. The Lady Tigers beat Scott 2-1 and 4-0 to take the Class AA sectional title, then defeated Wayne 2-0 on the road in the regional semifinals before bowing 10-0 at home to Sissonville in the Region 4 championship game.
CRHS is led by 36th-year head coach Ronnie Ooten, probably state’s all-time winningest softball coach, who has led the Lady Tigers since their inception in 1981.
Ooten said his team is ready to go.
The Lady Tigers are scheduled to open the season on Friday at home against Mingo Central. Game time is set for 5:30 p.m. Chapmanville then plays at Tolsia on March 21 and then hosts Poca on March 22 and Herbert Hoover on March 23 before playing at Logan on March 24.
“With the weather being good we’ve been able to get out quite a bit,” Ooten said. “We scrimmaged George Washington and we looked halfway decent. We scrimmaged Westside on Tuesday. If everyone accepts their role well we’ll be OK. We have quite a bit of talent. I couldn’t say what are starting lineup is going to be at this point. Got got a lot of depth and we’ve got nine to 11 good freshmen.”
Following Chapmanville’s 1-2 showing at the 2011 state tourney, the Lady Tigers lost in 2012 to 2013 to Wayne in the regional semifinals as there was a changing of the guard. The 2013 Chapmanville team had a 15-17 record, its first-ever losing season.
Then in 2014, Chapmanville rebounded to go 14-13 but were beaten in the sectional tourney by Scott.
Last season, the Lady Tigers continued to make strides with the regional runner-up finish.
CRHS lost five seniors to graduation, including starters Hope Kirk (second base), Samarah Hurst (third base) and Caitlin Elkins (outfield).
McCann, an all-state pick and a first-team all-Cardinal Conference selection last year, is back to lead Chapmanville this spring. McCann was 19-10 on the mound last season with a 1.49 ERA. She struck out 250 and walked only 46. McCann pitched 11 shutouts and was the Lady Tigers’ top hitter with a .387 average.
“Kenzie McCann will be our number one pitcher and she’s going to pitch quite a bit,” Ooten said. “We’re still unsure about who are number two pitcher is going to be. We had Faith Bell but she decided not to play this year.”
Also expected to pitch some this season are Jada Freeman, freshman Tabitha Adkins and Ali Harless, assistant coach D.A. Harless’ daughter, and one of the five transfers from Scott High School.
“All of the girls from Scott are eligible to play this year and we had also expected Lexi Hines (a transfer from Logan High School) to play but she hurt her leg again and she won’t be playing this season,” Ooten said. “We would have loved to have had her this season too.”
At catcher, last year’s starter, Savannah Wiley is back, along with Grace Belcher, one of the athletes who came over from Scott. Wiley was a second-team all-Cardinal Conference selection last year.
At first base, Chapmanville has a hole to fill as last year’s starter Cydnee Lambert (.258, 1 HR, 14 RBI) has transferred to Man High School. Lambert, who has also pitched for the Lady Tigers in the past, was an honorable mention all-conference pick last year.
Former Scott player Kirsten Kennedy and Hollie Carter are expected to share time at first base. Carter hit .337 with one homer, 13 RBI and 15 stolen bases last season and was a first-team all-conference selection. Carter has also seen time in the outfield.
“She can play anywhere,” Ooten said of Carter.
At second base, departed senior Kirk is gone. Harless could be Chapmanville’s starter there, but Coach Ooten said it’s a “toss-up” with others also vying for playing time.
Senior Shian Meeks is back as Chapmanville’s starter at shortstop. Last year, Meeks hit .302 with three homers and 24 RBI and was a first-team all-Cardinal pick. One of Meeks’ homers last year was a grand slam.
“She’s an excellent player,” Ooten said of Meeks.
Freshman Shae Pridemore will likely be Meeks’ backup.
Over at third base, Carly Cook and Grace Belcher, another former Scott player, are battling for the starting nod.
In the outfield, Ooten said former Scott Lady Hawk Kara Little has the inside track in left field. Belcher and Kara Browning are likely to platoon in center field. Malorie Kennedy, another former Scott player and Kirsten’s sister, is expected to battle for time in right field with Freeman and Carly Cook.
Browning, who saw a lot of playing time in the outfield as the season progressed last year, hit .340 with one homer. Freeman batted .298 last year. Both were honorable mention all-conference selections in 2015.
The CRHS softball team will play another difficult schedule this season.
In addition to home-and-home games against Cardinal Conference heavyweights Sissonville (2A defending state champ), Herbert Hoover, Scott and Wayne, Chapmanville will also have home-and-home series against Class AAA county rival Logan and Class A county rival Man — both of whom are expected to compete for state tourney berths.
In Chapmanville’s annual Lady Tigers Invitational set for March 31-April 2, CRHS is set to take on Class AAA teams Lincoln County, Hurricane (defending Class AAA state champion) and Point Pleasant.
The Lady Tigers also have a home-and-home series with 3A Riverside this season.
In addition, Chapmanville is set to play in the Best of the Best tourney April 14-16 at Buffalo.
CRHS plays a best-of-three sectional series against Scott May 3-5 at home at Chapmanville’s Ronnie Ooten Field.
2016 Chapmanville Regional High School
March 18: Mingo Central, 5:30 p.m.
March 21: at Tolsia, 5:30 p.m.
March 22: Poca, 6 p.m.
March 23: Herbert Hoover, 5:30 p.m.
March 24: at Logan, 5:30 p.m.
March 25: Scott, 5:30 p.m.
March 28: at Sissonville, 5:30 p.m.
March 29: Sherman, 5:30 p.m.
March 31: Lincoln County (Lady Tigers Invitational), 7 p.m.
April 1: Hurricane (Lady Tigers Invitational), 6:45 p.m.
April 2: Point Pleasant (Lady Tigers Invitational), 10 a.m.
April 4: at Lincoln County, 5:30 p.m.
April 5: at Wayne, 5:30 p.m.
April 6: at Man, 5:30 p.m.
April 7: Sissonville, 5:30 p.m.
April 8: at Sherman, 5:30 p.m.
April 9: Riverside, 2 p.m.
April 11: at Scott, 5:30 p.m.
April 12: at Poca, 6 p.m.
April 14-16: (at Best of the Best Buffalo), TBA
April 18: Wayne, 5:30 p.m.
April 19: Man, 5:30 p.m.
April 20: at Mingo Central, 5:30 p.m.
April 21: at Herbert Hoover, 5:30 p.m.
April 26: Logan, 5:30 p.m.
April 28: Tolsia, 5:30 p.m.
April 30: Riverside, 12 p.m.
May 3-5: vs. Scott (Class AA sectionals at Chapmanville), TBA
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).