CHAPMANVILLE — Even despite being hit hard by graduation the Chapmanville Regional High School baseball team is playing on this spring.
The Tigers have a history of rebounding fast and quickly filling holes of departed stars.
That’s what they do in baseball-rich Chapmanville.
The Tigers will have to do plenty of that this season.
Chapmanville is coming off a stellar season in which the Tigers were 30-6 and made it all the way to the Class AA state championship before falling 5-0 to Bridgeport in the finals at Charleston’s Appalachian Power Park.
Chapmanville advanced to the title game with an 8-5 state semifinal victory over Oak Glen. The Tigers moved on with regional tourney wins over Wayne (2-1) and Herbert Hoover (3-2) and won the sectional title over Scott two games to none.
The Tigers, though, will have their work cut out this spring.
The road back to Charleston will be a tough one as Chapmanville will have some rebuilding to do following the graduation of seven senior starters — Trey Dalton (10-1, 1.82 ERA), Tristan Thompson (.354, 14 RBI 22 SB; 4-1 1.33 ERA), Josh Browning (.395, 2 HR, 27 RBI), Tyler Neil (.208), Austin Ellis (.317; 6-0, 1.69 ERA), Jordan Cook (.333) and Joe Zigmond (.179).
Dalton and Thompson were Chapmanville two pitching aces.
Thompson was one of Chapmanville’s leading hitters and its starting shortstop.
The Tigers, faced with the loss of starters in past years, have always seemed to reload. There always seems to be baseball talent ready to step forward.
Chapmanville 15th-year head coach Eric Ellis said he hopes that’s the case.
“We lose quite a few but don’t count us out,” Ellis said. “We’ve got a class act program down at Chapmanville. We’ve got a team and we’ll be back. We lost some good pitching but we feel like we will be competitive. The boys will work hard but we hope to reload. That’s the expectation and we’ll be using the next man philosophy.”
If Chapmanville is able to get past Scott in its sectional tourney the Tigers would have come field advantage during the regionals.
“We feel like we’ve got a great shot to make it back to (Appalachian) Power Park,” Ellis said. “We think that we’ve got as good a shot as anybody. We have one more go at it with Scott in the sectional. Next year, there will be some changes but we’re not worried about that right now. Both of our regional games would be at home if we can make it there and we’ve only lost one or two games at home the last few years.”
New players must step up, however.
“We lost seven good seniors but it’s time for some other guys to step up,” Ellis said. “We feel like we’ve got a chance to be pretty good. We’ve got a few guys back. We play a lot of JV ball so when you lose a lot of guys there’s others ready to step up.”
Chapmanville’s pitching staff will be led by Chris Bailey. He was 2-2 with a 3.33 ERA last year. Bailey made nine appearances and hurled 27.1 innings and allowed 13 earned runs with 36 strikeouts and 18 walks. He’s likely to be the No. 1 starter.
“We lost three really good pitchers from last year and replacing them will be hard but we are just asking them to throw strikes and give us good innings,” Ellis said. “That’s because one of our strengths this year we feel will be our offense. We think that we can score a lot of runs. Chris Bailey had surgery on his elbow in the off-season and he’s working back slowly. He should be able to carry a lot of innings for us.”
Senior right-hander Alex Berry will also slide into a starter’s role this year. Berry, also the quarterback of the CRHS football team, was 4-1 last year with a 2.57 ERA primarily as a relief pitcher. He tossed 16.1 innings and allowed just six earned runs and four walks while fanning 22.
“Alex was more of a relief pitcher for us last year but he will be a starter this year,” Ellis said. “He’s got good off-speed stuff and more velocity this year.”
Sophomore Josh Zigmond will also be a starter, Ellis said. He was 2-0 last year with a 2.69 ERA. He had a 13-inning worksheet and struck out 19 batters with only a single issued walk.
“He comes from a good bloodline,” Ellis said of Zigmond. “His dad Joe was one of the all-time greats here at Chapmanville. Josh has a good fastball with a lot of movement.”
Jacob Dingess and Tyler Shannon (0-0, 2.33 ERA, 3 IP) may see ample time in the Tigers’ bullpen.
Dylan Brown (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 IP), a junior, and Adam Vance (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 IP), a sophomore, saw some mound time last year and will likely see more this spring. Conner Mullins, a freshman, adds depth to the staff.
Last year, the Tigers had a 1.96 team ERA.
Behind the plate at catcher, Ellis said Noah Dingess and Ryan Craddock (.667, 4-for-6) will most likely spilt time. Dingess played in the outfield last season and led the team with a .423 batting average. He had 13 RBI and became a starter late in the season. He had 22 hits and two stolen bases.
Vance will likely play first base when not pitching.
“He’s shown a lot of improvement,” Ellis said of Vance. “He’s always been a good defensive player but now he’s improving with his bat.”
Over at second base, junior Hunter Long and Mullins will likely platoon.
“Both have earned the right to play,” Ellis said.
Berry and Bailey are also likely to platoon at shortstop, depending on who is pitching.
Bailey had a big year last year as he hit .400 with one home run and a team-best 40 RBI. He also rapped out a team-high 10 doubles and tied for a team-best 34 base hits. Berry hit .340 last year and hit a game-winning home run in a sectional tourney game at Scott. He finished with 23 RBI, two doubles two triples and 12 stolen bases.
Zigmond, Bailey and Chaseton Ghee (.200) could also see time at third base.
“Bailey can play anywhere but we don’t want him to play catcher this year,” Ellis said.
The speedy Jacob Dingess is back as Chapmanville’s starting centerfielder. Last year, Dingess hit .349 with 13 RBI and four doubles and was a perfect 18-for-18 in stolen base attempts.
“He’s got great speed and he will help us at the top of the order,” Ellis said.
Tyler Shannon is back in left field. He hit .348 with seven RBI, two doubles and two stolen bases last year.
Noah Dingess can also play in the outfield as well if he’s not behind the plate. Austin Bledsoe, Ethan Thompson, Andy Bias and Brown are other Tigers’ outfielders.
“Ethan is Tristan’s younger brother and he’s decided to play baseball this year,” Ellis said.
Josh Bazilla (.308, one double, 3 RBI), is Chapmanville’s senior designated hitter.
Chapmanville had a .341 team batting average in 2015.
The Tigers are not scheduled to play Class AAA county rival Logan this year. The two teams haven’t met in five years.
The Tigers and Wildcats, however, will renew their rivalry on the baseball diamond in 2017 as LHS rejoins the Cardinal Conference next school year and moves back down to Double-A.
Also on Chapmanville’s schedule this spring are games against 3A teams Point Pleasant, Hurricane and Lincoln County.
Chapmanville also has a home-and-home series against Class A county rival Man. The Hillbillies are last year’s Class A state runner-up.
The Tigers went 2-1 last season against the Billies, winning 6-0 and 8-1 and falling 5-4 in eight innings in the third meeting.
CRHS will once again play a best-of-three Class AA sectional series with Scott this spring.
Next year, Chapmanville’s sectional will be different. The make-up of next year’s section has yet to be determined, however. Chapmanville, Logan, Man, Lincoln County, Scott and Mingo Central have been lined up to play in next year’s basketball sectionals.
If it all works out, the Tigers plan on being in the state tournament again in early June.
Chapmanville has always been known for its high-caliber baseball teams over the years.
“The expectations are always high,” Ellis said. “That’s what we lay on the kids. We never seem to rebuild and we never seem to be bad. We hope that continues and we look like we will be able to have another good baseball team this year. Last year’s team was built around pitching and defense. This year, we feel like we’ve got a team that will be better offensively.
“We’re really excited to see what lays in front of us this year. We have some all-state caliber players and it’s looking great so far.”
CRHS has started off the season 2-0 with wins over Tolsia (21-1) on Tuesday at home and Thursday at Mingo Central (18-1).
2016 Chapmanville Regional High School
March 22: Tolsia, 6 p.m.
March 24: at Mingo Central, 4:30 p.m.
March 26: Mount View (DH), 1 p.m.
March 29: at Poca, 6 p.m.
March 31: Lincoln County, 6 p.m.
April 1: at Sissonville, 6 p.m.
April 2: at Van, 6:30 p.m.
April 5: Scott, 6:30 p.m.
April 7: at Man, 7 p.m.
April 8: Point Pleasant, 7 p.m.
April 9: Wayne, 2:30 p.m.
April 12: at Herbert Hoover, 7 p.m.
April 14: at Tolsia, 6 p.m.
April 15: Poca, , 6 p.m.
April 16: at Belfry, Ky. (DH), 2 p.m.
April 18: Sissonville, 6 p.m.
April 19: at Lincoln County, 5 p.m.
April 21: at Scott, 6:30 p.m.
April 22: at Point Pleasant, 6:30 p.m.
April 23: Hurricane, 12 p.m.
April 26: at Wayne, 7 p.m.
April 28: Van, 6:30 p.m.
April 29: Independence, 4:30 p.m.
April 29: Roane County, 7 p.m.
May 2: Herbert Hoover, 7 p.m.
May 4: Man, 7 p.m.
May 6: Mingo Central, 6 p.m.
May 7: at Hurricane, 6 p.m.
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).