MAN — The Man High School softball team is just one win away from making a return trip to the West Virginia State Tournament next week in Vienna.
The Lady Billies finished the regular season at 23-5 and are hoping to return to the big dance next week.
Man will play at Fayetteville (19-12) on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in the Class A Region 3 championship game.
The two teams did not meet during the regular season.
Fayetteville advanced with a 6-2 regional semifinal win over Greenbrier West. The Pirates won 10-9 over Midland Trail and 7-6 and 13-10 over Richwood to win the sectional title.
Man scored a forfeit victory over Tug Valley in its sectional and scored a 10-1 win at Sherman in the regional semifinal round.
Man head coach Randy Epperly, now in his 19th season at the helm, is no stranger to state tourney. He has took six teams to state with two state titles and two runners-up finishes under his belt.
The Lady Billies won back-to-back state crowns in 2008 and 2009 led by pitcher Marlena Frye. Man was the state runner-ups in 2010 as a bid to win a third straight state crown was foiled in extra innings by South Harrison.
Man is looking for its seventh berth in the state tourney.
This is the last year Man will compete as a Class A school. Next year, the Lady Billies return to Class AA ball for the first time since 2003.
“As long as our pitching is good we are OK,” Epperly said. “Se have two very good hurlers in Emilee Walker and Haylee Daniels. In fact we only got blown out just once this entire season — a 10-2 loss to Poca. We always had two or three girls step up each game and hit the ball. Our girls have trouble with slow pitching. We like hit the fastball. Our defense has done well and our hitting had been good. We played well at Sherman. Like I said earlier, if our pitching is good we will be OK.”
Heading into the Fayetteville game, Man has a .373 team batting average, led by junior catcher Sydney Keffer, who is hitting .448 with 30 hits in 67 official trips to the plate. He has two home runs and has scored 21 runs. She did not strike out all season long.
At first base, Man has Cydnee Lambert, a Chapmanville Regional High School transfer, who has had a good first season with the Lady Billies. Lambert is hitting .420 with two home runs and 24 total hits.
Outfielder Grace Cline has a .410 batting average with two home runs and is leading the team with 25 runs scored.
Senior Emilee Toler has a .390 average with 23 hits and 23 runs scored.
Freshman Chelsea Vance is hitting .367 with 18 runs scored.
Savannah McCormack has a .364 batting average with 24 hits and 24 runs scored. She hit one home run.
Emilee Walker has a .333 clip with 14 hits and 12 runs scored.
Morgan Muncy is batting .318 going into the regional finals.
Sophomore Maddy Paynter is hitting .308. Freshman Allie Meade saw limited playing time and hit .500 going 12-for-24 at the plate.
Within the pitching circle, Man has the one-two punch of Walker and junior Haylee Daniels.
Walker led the pitching staff with an 11-3 record with a 1.92 ERA. She has 101 strikeouts in an 84-inning worksheet with 57 hits allowed and 23 earned runs. She walked 38 batters.
Daniels went 9-2 with an 0.80 ERA, with 50 strikeouts and just nine walks in 44 innings pitched. She only allowed five earned runs.
Lambert, Man’s third pitcher, saw limited pitching action with a record of 1-0 in two relief appearances. Lambert injured her ankle this season and saw only a handful of innings.