CHAPMANVILLE — When the calendar turns to May it’s an exciting time for high school softball teams in West Virginia.
The last week of the month is the goal for everyone.
That’s when the top four teams in each class advance to the annual state softball tournament in Vienna.
The Chapmanville Regional High School girls have thought about this all season.
It’s been a long time since the Lady Tigers last made it to state — five years to be exact — and Chapmanville looks to make it back in a few short weeks.
The odds seem to look good for Chapmanville, which has slugged its way to a 24-4 season so far this spring.
By most accounts, it’s the best Lady Tigers’ squad since the Andi Williamson led 2009 team, which dominated Double-A softball in the state and cruised to a 31-3 season and the state championship.
Chapmanville returned to Vienna in 2010, and the Lady Tigers, then led by senior twin sisters Allison and Jenna Evans, surprised everyone by capturing a second straight state championship despite losing 13 games over the course of the season.
CRHS made it back to state in 2011 but was ousted from the double-elimination tournament with a 1-2 showing.
Chapmanville softball in the last four years has taken a step back as there was a changing of the guard in Region 4 Class AA softball.
Wayne won back-to-back state championships in Class AA in 2012 and 2013. Herbert Hoover took the 2014 title and Sissonville won last year’s state championship in Double-A.
CRHS must be able to leap over the first hurdle and take care of business this week in the best-of-three game sectional series with Scott.
Scott comes into the tournament with a 6-17 record and have lost seven straight and 10 out of its last 11. The Lady Tigers defeated the Lady Hawks twice this season by identical 8-0 scores.
Game 1 is set for 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Chapmanville’s Ronnie Ooten Field. Game 2 is slated for Wednesday at 6. If a decisive Game 3 is needed it would be played on Thursday at 6.
“It’s a rivalry and it’s the sectional and they will be out to get us,” said Lady Tigers’ veteran coach Ronnie Ooten, who has led Chapmanville to five state titles with the others coming in 1999, 2004 and 2007. “We hope that we can get them. We’ll just have to see what happens.”
If Chapmanville gets past Scott, the Lady Tigers would face Wayne (7-11) in the Class AA regional semifinals, set for May 12 at CRHS. Wayne is likely to have an easy time in its sectional against winless Tolsia (0-20).
A win over Wayne and Chapmanville would then be one win away from the state tourney. The Lady Tigers would most likely play defending state champion and Cardinal Conference regular season champ Sissonville (21-5) or Poca (19-4).
The Region 4 championship game would be played May 17 at either Sissonville or Poca.
Sissonville split with the much-improved Dots this season, losing 9-2 on the road at Poca and winning 6-1 at home.
Sissonville twice beat the Lady Tigers this season, taking a 3-0 win on March 28 at Sissonville and then edging out CRHS 4-3 on April 13 in Chapmanville. The Lady Tigers beat the Dots twice by 5-1 and 8-3 scores.
“Poca has a good ballclub too,” Ooten said. “Sissonville split with them in the season. Sissonville beat us here by one run and it was close down there. We played well in those games but we just couldn’t get the hits together.”
The Lady Tigers are riding an 11-game winning streak going into the post-season.
The streak started in mid-April as CRHS won the Class AA-A title in the Best of the Best tourney, culminating with a 9-1 victory over Weirton Madonna in the championship game.
Chapmanville has been a dominant force since, taking wins over Wayne (6-0), Man (2-0), Mingo Central (16-0), Herbert Hoover (8-0), Riverside (12-2) and Logan (8-0), outscoring its opponents 52-2.
The Lady Tigers have been solid in all facets of the game.
Ace pitcher Kenzie McCann is 21-4 on the hill.
On the offensive end, four Chapmanville players are hitting better than .400 — a rare feat.
First baseman Hollie Carter leads the way with a .447 batting average. Senior shortstop Shian Meeks is hitting .421 with six home runs and 41 RBI. Senior catcher Savannah Wiley has a .418 average with five homers and 31 RBI. McCann, Chapmanville’s left-handed hitting leadoff slap hitter, is batting .407 going into the sectionals.
The Lady Tigers’ power hitting has been most striking.
Third baseman Grace Belcher has also hit six home runs and has a .314 batting average. Kara Browning has two homers and a .367 average.
As a team, Chapmanville has hit 20 home runs — a very rare occurrence in high school softball — and a figure Coach Ooten has not seen in his 36 years as head coach of the Lady Tigers.
“No, we’ve never had that many as a team,” Ooten said. “We usually have three or four home runs a year or five or six every now and then. In the Sandy Black days she hit some home runs. Rhonda (Ooten) had a few home runs in her seasons but 20 total as a team in a single season that’s unreal. We haven’t seen anything like this.”
Having so many players with such high batting averages is also rare.
And none of those hits are cheapies either.
If you know how Ooten’s wife Barb, the Chapmanville scorebook keeper and assistant coach, keeps a book she doesn’t pad anything.
If it’s an error it’s an error.
There’s no phantom hits.
And there’s no sympathy hits given out even for a batter who might be in a slump.
“I haven’t really sat down and gave it much thought but it’s really been a long time,” Ooten said when asked about the four .400 hitters. “This is probably as good a hitting team that I’ve had from top to bottom. Everybody in the order can hit. We’ve had good hitters in the past but not like this where it’s the whole team. There are three girls that didn’t play tonight that can hit. It’s hard to get them all worked into the game. I’m tickled to death with this team. They are a great group of kids.”
Several other CRHS players have contributed.
Jada Freeman (.265), Alli Harless (.299) and Karah Little (.275) have also had their moments.
With so many good teams in Region 4 — most members of the Cardinal Conference — Ooten said it’s a shame that only one of those teams can go to Vienna.
Ooten said he’s lobbying for the SSAC to expand the state tournament field from four teams to eight teams in the future.
“I’m on the rules committee and I’m going to try to do something about it,” Ooten said. “I’m pushing for them to have eight teams in the state tournament.”
Next year, Logan, Nitro and Winfield will be added to the Cardinal Conference.
Ooten said Chapmanville only needs to add Nitro and Winfield to the 2017 schedule in order for it to be complete.
TEAM CONF ALL
Sissonville 13-1 21-5
Chapmanville 11-2 24-4
Poca 8-3 19-4
Herbert Hoover 8-5 13-10
Wayne 5-8 7-11
Scott 3-8 6-17
Tolsia 0-10 0-20
Mingo Central NA NA
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).