Young Tigers hope to improve this season
by Paul Adkins
CHAPMANVILLE — After a one-year hiatus from the state tournament and two years removed from winning the Class AA state championship the Chapmanville Regional High School baseball team would like to make a return trip to Charleston.
The Tigers have some talent back from last year’s 20-11 team which lost to Wayne, 6-5, in the Class AA regional semifinals, but must also find replacements for five lost starters.
Gone and graduated are Tyler Cox, Tyler Collins, Jordan Banks, Joe Woody and Tyler Killen — five of the last links to Chapmanville’s 2011 state championship team.
Cox hit .420 last year for the Tigers with a team-leading five home runs and 19 RBI and was one of Chapmanville’s top pitchers as he was 6-3 with a 2.59 ERA and a team-best 76 strikeouts.
Banks was Chapmanville’s lefty pitching ace as he was 5-2 with a 1.44 ERA and 72 strikeouts. At the plate, he hit a team-high .474 with three homers, 31 RBI, eight doubles and a team-best six triples.
Woody, who played third base, batted .321 last season with 17 RBI.
Collins, Chapmanville’s everyday DH, had a .375 average a year ago with two home runs and a team-best 32 RBI.
Killen pitched and played second last year as he hit .208 with one homer and 18 RBI. On the hill, he was 3-0 with a 3.54 ERA.
Those will be tough shoes to fill but Chapmanville 12th-year head coach Eric Ellis said he has players ready to step in. Known for producing very good baseball players over the years, the Chapmanville program has brought home three state championships in its history with the others coming in 1987 and 1997.
“They’ve got no choice but to step in,” Ellis said of his new players this season. “We feel like we’ve got a good core of young kids with our ninth, 10th and 11th-graders. We have very few seniors this year. We feel like we’ve got some kids that can play it’s just a matter of how quickly they are going to adapt to the varsity level and compete against the schedule that we play.”
Thankfully, the cupboard was not left bare for the Tigers, particularly on the mound.
Returning are two of Chapmanville’s top pitchers in senior right-hander Dustin Conley and junior righty Nick Brumfield.
Conley and Brumfield are expected to be 1-2 in the Tigers’ rotation this spring.
Last year, Conley was 1-3 with a 4.33 ERA. He threw 30.2 innings and allowed 19 earned runs and just 24 walks while striking out 54.
Brumfield was 3-2 last season with a 3.00 ERA. He tossed 25.2 innings and yielded just 11 earned runs and nine walks to go along with his 36 strikeouts.
“Dustin is our only senior pitcher and Brumfield is our only junior pitcher,” Ellis said. “We’ll lean on those two guys to lead us. Those two guys have thrown several innings over the last few years. They are experienced guys and we’re going to rely on them to log a lot of innings for us. Hopefully, they will pitch well and will help us win a lot of games.”
Sophomore Tristian Thompson, who played both at second base and in the outfield in 2012, is also being counted on to pitch for the Tigers this spring. Thompson pitched nine innings at the varsity level last season and had a 1-0 record with 17 strikeouts.
“He pitched a little bit last year and he’ll play shortstop as well,” Ellis said of Thompson. “He’s throwing the ball pretty well this spring. We’re really pleased with what he has given us so far.”
Sophomore left-hander Trey Dalton will also be in Chapmanville’s rotation. He threw 4.1 innings of varsity ball last season, striking out five.
“He helped us last year and he’s throwing the ball better this spring,” Ellis said.
Chase Roberts, another sophomore, will also be needed to pitch some for Chapmanville.
“He’s a crafty guy,” Ellis said. “He’s grown and he’s picked up some velocity. He has a real nice curve ball.”
Sophomore righty Austin Ellis, who saw action on the hill in two innings of work last season, is also on the Tigers’ pitching staff. Sophomore Scottie Thompson, when not catching, could also do some pitching out of the bullpen.
At catcher, Scottie Thompson and Jordan Cook platooned for the Tigers last season as the two replaced Jordan Kirk from the ‘11 state title team. Thompson hit .275 last season with 11 hits, a pair of doubles and five RBI. Cook batted .263 with 10 hits and six RBI.
“We may have to use Cook some this year out in the field,” Coach Ellis said. “He’ll be a utility kind of guy for us. He’ll catch some and he’ll play some second and play some short. He might possibly play some in the outfield. He’s going to move around from day to day for us. Scottie will get most of the reps behind the plate. Scottie has worked hard in the last year and has improved his game a lot back there. We should be a lot better behind the plate.”
At first base, Chapmanville lost a dandy in Banks and Ellis said he has had a “log-jam of guys” trying out for that position during preseason practices.
Junior Brent Bigley seems to have the inside nod at the first sack position. Bigley had 11 varsity at-bats last season and had four hits, including a double, for a .364 batting average.
“He’s the leading candidate and he’s looked better than the rest of the guys,” Ellis said.
Brent Clay may also see time at first base or at designated hitter, Ellis said. Clay was 2-for-7 at the plate in varsity action last season with a .286 average.
Senior Austin Watts and sophomore Joe Zigmond gives Chapmanville two more options at first base.
At second base, Killen has graduated, so the Tigers have had open tryouts this spring.
William Copley, a junior, who has some varsity experience, could have the inside track. Cook could also play at second as well as senior Josh Eldridge, who has come out for the team this season.
At shortstop, Tristan Thompson seems to be the most likely replacement for Cox. Thompson started off slowly last year as a freshman but rebounded to bat .250 with 16 total base hits, two triples and 13 RBI. He also stole seven bases — second-best on the team behind Cox’s 14 thefts.
When Thompson pitches, Ellis said Cook will most likely start at short.
“We had the situation last year with quite a few of our young guys as they got better as the year went on,” Ellis said of Thompson. “We started off the year 8-8 and then we went 12-3 over our last 15 games. A lot of that had to do with our younger guys who were getting adapted to the high school level. It’s totally different from playing JV or middle school.”
At third base, Woody is gone, so the Tigers are looking to Austin Ellis and Conley. Conley pitched mostly last year and hit .222 in 18 at-bats. Ellis only went to plate three times at the varsity level in 2012.
In the outfield, Chapmanville seems to be in much better shape as all three starters return — junior Brady Cox in left, sophomore Brock Dalton in center and junior Adam Dingess in right field.
Cox, a left-handed batter, batted .247 last season with 21 hits, two doubles, three triples, a home run and 15 RBI.
Brock Dalton had a .325 average last year with 26 hits, three doubles, nine RBI and six stolen bases.
Dingess hit .250 last season with a pair of doubles and three RBI.
“They are all looking at lot better at this time of the season than they were at this point last season,” Ellis said of his three starting outfielders. “It took them a while last year to get adapted out there. They are getting used to each other more and they have all improved. We expect those guys to step up and be leaders for us this year because they played a lot last year.”
Brumfield may also see some time in the outfield as well as Trey Dalton, Zach Adkins and Tyler Neil.
Chapmanville is scheduled to open the season on Monday at home against Sherman, weather permitting, in a 5:30 p.m. contest at Ted Ellis Field. The Tigers then go to Mingo Central on March 21 before hosting Class AAA Point Pleasant on March 22 and Van on March 25.
“What we have seen so far this spring is what we have expected,” Ellis said, in summing up his team. “We think that if our front three or four pitchers can step in there and throw strikes we feel like we will be OK. Defensively, we are probably like everyone else. It’s hard to get any consistency because you are not getting to go outside enough because of the bad weather. We have been out a day or two and then we have to go in for two or three days. We’ve got a young team and we understand, and we’ve been through this before, there are going to be days where they look great and there are going to be days where they look awful. Hopefully, there will be more of the great days than the awful days.”
Ellis said his team has been hampered with a colder than normal March.
“With the new bats you really have to square it up to hit it hard and with the cold weather that really takes away from that as well,” he said. “We will probably play a different style this year. We’re going to he hitting and running and we’re going to be playing more small ball than we have in the past. We’re going to be very aggressive, so we’re going to be a fun team to watch.”
The Tigers will play a two-team Class AA sectional this season with rival Scott. Chapmanville, which won its fourth straight sectional title last year with a 17-7 victory over 10-16 Scott, will be looking for five in a row this spring as the two teams will play a best-of-three series.
Last year’s other sectional opponent, first-year team Mingo Central, has been shipped out to a new sectional this season with Wayne and Tolsia.
“Scott should be very good,” Ellis said. “They have their whole team back. I think they are definitely going to be a good team and we’re going to have to play well to compete this year.”
The Tigers always play a challenging Cardinal Conference schedule year in and year out and will do so again this season.
Chapmanville also has non-league home-and-home series with Class AAA Point Pleasant and Ripley.
The Tigers are also slated to face Class A county rival Man in a two-game series, as well as Ravenswood, Mount View, Van and Clay County.
New to this year’s schedule is a home-and-home series with Pike Central (Ky.), a school located at Buckleys Creek, Ky., just a few miles outside of the Pikeville city limits along U.S. 119.
Chapmanville will once again host the annual Daffer Memorial Tournament and are set to take on Wayne on April 12 and 3A Capital on April 13.
Ellis said he expects Herbert Hoover and Poca to be the teams to beat in the Cardinal Conference. The Huskies lost 1-0 to Wyoming East in the Class AA state championship game. Chapmanville had shut out East 8-0 in the 2011 state title game. Hoover last won the state title in 2007.
“Herbert Hoover and Poca are going to be real good,” Ellis said. “Those are two teams that are going to be extremely strong this year. Hoover went to the finals last year and basically have their whole team back. Poca has everybody back as well. Sissonville also returns everybody. The Cardinal Conference this year is going to be very good. Scott also has everybody back. Us and Wayne are usually two of the top teams but we are going to be scratching for everything that we get this year.”
For the second straight season, Chapmanville does not play Class AAA county rival Logan this year as the rivalry has been put on indefinite hiatus.
Coach Ellis’s staff has changed this year as well as longtime pitching coach and third base coach Ritchie Millis has departed and is out of baseball.
“Ritchie is no longer with us because of his job and things going in his life so he can‘t dedicate the time, so he stepped aside,” Ellis said.
Returning are assistants Josh Rakes and former head coach Ted Ellis.
New to the staff are Bo Berry and Jeff Preast.
“The staff has been working hard. They are all hard workers,” Ellis said. “I’m really pleased with where we are at but we’ve got a long way to go. We look forward to a challenging schedule and hope to get outside and get better every day. Our goal is to get better and hopefully compete for the trophy in June.”
Chapmanville Regional High School
2013 Baseball Schedule
March 18: Sherman, 5:30 p.m.
March 21: at Mingo Central, 6:30 p.m.
March 22: Point Pleasant, 7 p.m.
March 25: Van, 6:30 p.m.
March 26: Tolsia (DH), 5 p.m.
March 28: at Poca, 6:30 p.m.
March 30: at Ripley, 12 p.m.
March 30: at Ravenswood, 2:30 p.m.
April 1: at Herbert Hoover, 7 p.m.
April 3: Man, 7 p.m.
April 5: at Mount View (DH), 12 p.m.
April 6: at Clay County, 12 p.m.
April 8: at Scott, 6:30 p.m.
April 9: Poca, 6:30 p.m.
April 12: Capital (Daffer Tourney), 7 p.m.
April 13: Wayne (Daffer Tourney), 3:30 p.m.
April 15: Herbert Hoover, 7 p.m.
April 16: at Van, 6:30 p.m.
April 18: Scott, 6:30 p.m.
April 19: at Wayne, 7 p.m.
April 20: Pike Central (Ky.), 1 p.m.
April 22: at Sherman, 5:30 p.m.
April 23: Mingo Central, 6:30 p.m.
April 24: at Man, 7 p.m.
April 25: Sissonville, 7 p.m.
April 26: Clay County, 6:30 p.m.
April 29: at Pike Central (Ky.), 5:30 p.m.
April 30: at Sissonville, 7 p.m.
May 2: at Point Pleasant, 7 p.m.
May 3: Mount View, 6 p.m.
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