CHAPMANVILLE — Coming off of a Class AA state runner-up finish and 30 wins in 2015, the Chapmanville baseball team was tasked with replacing seven starters, including its top three pitchers, heading into this season.
“We always put high expectations on our kids,” said Chapmanville coach Eric Ellis. “We have a good program here and when kids graduate, others come in. We tell them that it’s their turn and they’re expected to fill that role and do it in a way to help win ballgames. These kids have really stepped up and done that.”
It’s fair to say that transition process has gone just fine for the Tigers, who entered the final week of the regular season Monday with a 21-3 record and No. 2 ranking out of Class AA in the MetroNews baseball poll.
“We’ve been pretty consistent all year,” Ellis said. “This year’s team is a little different than last year’s team in that our pitching isn’t quite as dominant, but we are better offensively.
“We’re a more well-rounded team than what we were last year,” he continued. “We’ve been just finding ways to win each day, whether that’s with the bats or with pitching and defense – most of the time it’s because we’ve been able to score some runs.”
Among the graduated seniors from last year were ace Trey Dalton and No. 2 starter Tristan Thompson. Junior Chris Bailey has stepped into that ace role on the mound this year, while senior Alex Berry is next in the rotation.
“Chris (Bailey) has thrown the ball really well this year and Alex (Berry) has been solid as well,” Ellis said. “Sophomore Josh Zigmond has been our third guy who we have leaned on a lot. They’ve all pitched really well at times and had their moments where they didn’t. For the most part, they’ve pitched well, kept us in ballgames and given us an opportunity to win.”
Bailey and Berry hold down the No. 3 and No. 4 spots in the Chapmanville lineup, while Jacob Dingess leads off, Noah Dingess bats second and Zigmond hits fifth.
“All of the front five in our order are hitting above .400,” Ellis said. “The top of the order is getting on and the middle of the order is driving them in – that’s how we’ve been producing a lot of runs. I thought we could be a good offensive team this year and we’ve pretty much been that.”
The Tigers last week collected a pair of top five wins, beating then-No. 3 Wayne 4-3 and then-No. 2 Independence 6-2.
“We’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Ellis said. “We have a lot of good momentum going. But it’s a group of kids who don’t get too high or too low, no matter the situation. We feel like we have as good of a shot as anybody this year. Our region is pretty tough, but we’re hoping to make another run at it and get back to Charleston.”
The Tigers, looking for their first baseball championship since 2011, will have a rugged path to get back to the state tournament, coming out of Region 4 in Class AA. The region currently has three ranked teams in No. 2 Chapmanville, No. 5 Wayne and No. 6 Sissonville. Herbert Hoover and Poca have also both been ranked at various points during the year as well.
“We’re all in the same conference, we all play each other and beat each other up,” Ellis said. “There are five or six teams who could probably win our region. It’ll just come down to who plays better on that day.”