MAN — The Man High School baseball team is hoping to make a return once again to the Class A state tournament.
Last year, Man advanced to the Class A state championship game but fell 7-0 to Wahama, a year after taking the state title in 2014.
This year marks the final season for the Hillbillies in the Single-A ranks as Man is slated to move up to Class AA ball next spring.
The Billies, 19-15 last year, must replace their entire outfield as Braden Griffin, Baley Beckwith, Tyler Dugan and Mikle Scott Rowe have been lost to graduation.
“That is going to hurt us some,” Man coach Larry Vance said. “Braden was a first-team all-stater and now plays at the college level at West Virginia State.”He was about 40 percent of our offense last year. Beckwith was a very outstanding outfielder as well and Rowe hit over .300 last year but we have some kids that can step up hopefully. Griffin and Rowe also pitched for us as well.”
Vance said Man has some returning players.
“We have good veteran players back in senior John Thomas Keffer, Kenny Jo Adkins and Jake Adkins as well as juniors Cameron Simpson and Tyler Blair so we should be ok,” Vance said. “Right now, our pitching and defense is ahead of our hitting. You could tell in our opening loss to Logan but now it’s spring break and we will work hard this week on our hitting.”
Led by Jake Adkins, Man has a strong pitching staff. Adkins was 4-2 last season with a 2.95 ERA with 68 strikeouts and 11 walks.
“We’ve got a lot of pitching back. It’s our strong suit,” Vance said. “Jake Adkins is our only lefty. We have John Thomas Keffer, Cameron Simpson and Austin Gent, then you throw in John McCoy, Dylan Goodman and freshman Zack Cook and we will be fine.”
Vance said Man’s defense also looks good.
“We are pretty solid defensively,” he said. “We have kids that can play multiple positions when called on. Kenny Jo Adkins can anchor center field and come into the infield when Keffer or Simpson is on the mound and play short or second for us. Playing first we have five kids that can play over there in Jake Adkins, Seth Chapman, John MCoy, Jacob Trogdon or John Thomas Keffer. The middle infielders are Cameron Simpson, Kenny Jo Adkins, Austin Gent, Zack Cook and Trey Whitt. We are solid at third base with Keffer and when Keffer in on the mound Gent will play the hot corner. Cam Miller can play third too and we have junior Tyler Blair back behind the dish with Nick Albright and Seth Chapman, who can also can play back there as well.”
Several outfielders are vying for starting jobs.
“The outfield is where we have to deal with the lost of our seniors,” Vance said. “Nick Collins and Dylan Goodman can play out there and Kenny Jo Adkins in center and Mitchell Morris and Chase Harvey also plays outfield for us. We need some younger kids to step up and play the infield in Zack Cook and Trey Whitt then we can keep Kenny Jo in the outfield. Brandon Cook, Gabby Brown, Kyle Browning and Brandon Cozart all have good speed. We have more speed than we have in quite a while.”
Hitting is where Man needs to work, Vance said.
“We’ve got to work more on our hitting and by the end of the year we should be fine,” he said. “The batting order looks like this: Kenny Jo Adkins leads off, Cameron Simpson is second, J.T. Ketter is third and our cleanup hitter is Seth Chapman. Austin Gent bats fifth, Tyler Blair sixth, Nick Collins seventh, Dylan Goodman eighth and John McCoy ninth. We have no power hitters. We have gap hitters in Keffer, Simpson and Chapman.”
Man always plays a difficult baseball schedule. This year it will be tough again.
“We have several new teams on the schedule in Capital, Greater Beckley, Van and Greenbrier West,” Vance said.
Man also plays Logan, Chapmanville Regional, Buffalo, Moorefield, defending state champion Wahama and Westside.
2016 Man High School
March 24: Logan, 7 p.m.
March 26: Greater Beckley Christian, 1 p.m.
March 28: Lincoln County, 2 p.m.
March 29: at Van, 7 p.m.
April 1: at Buffalo, 1 p.m.
April 5: at Westside, 7 p.m.
April 7: Chapmanville, 7 p.m.
April 8: Belfry (Ky.), 7 p.m.
April 9: vs. Grafton (at Logan), 11 a.m.
April 9: Charleston Catholic, 3 p.m.
April 11: Van, 7 p.m.
April 14: at Greater Beckley Christian, 5:30 p.m.
April 15: Buffalo, 4 p.m.
April 16: Moorefield, 11 a.m.
April 19: at Sherman, 5 p.m.
April 20: Mount View, 6 p.m.
April 22: at Liberty Raleigh, 5:30 p.m.
April 23: at Fayetteville, 12 p.m.
April 23: vs. Greenbrier West (at Fayetteville), 2:30 p.m.
April 25: at Logan, 7 p.m.
April 26: Westside, 7 p.m.
April 27: at Lincoln County, 5 p.m.
April 29: at Charleston Catholic, 6 p.m.
April 30: Fayetteville, 1 p.m.
May 2: at Belfry (Ky.), 7 p.m.
May 3: Sherman, 5 p.m.
May 4: at Chapmanville, 7 p.m.
May 5: at Mount View, 6 p.m.
May 6: Liberty Raleigh, 5:30 p.m.