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Copyright 2017 Charleston Newspapers

Charleston Gazette-Mail


A revised postseason format injected new life into boys and girls basketball in 2005, and now baseball gets to take its cuts under some new guidelines.

When sectionals open Monday across West Virginia, they do so for the first time with seeded fields, much like basketball started doing more than a decade ago.

It should be exciting, said St. Albans coach Rick Whitman, whose team is one of the top contenders in Class AAA. Its a fun time of the year, and hopefully this will make it even better for everyone.

Nine of the Kanawha Valleys 13 teams are scheduled to take the field Monday, with the other four Sissonville and Herbert Hoover in Class AA, and Charleston Catholic and Buffalo in Class A each set to play Tuesday after receiving a high seed and earning a first-day bye (see sectional schedule, Page 2B).

Another new concept to this years format is continuous play, with sectionals all over the state opening Monday and playing every day that wet weather doesnt intervene. Also, the higher seed earns the home field advantage in every sectional game instead of operating under a rotating schedule.

Hurricane (24-6), the No. 1 seed in Region 4 Section 2, hosts Huntington (13-15) at 6 p.m. Monday. The Redskins have also been considered one of the best teams in Class AAA all season, and thats probably still the case though the roster looked a little different toward the end of the regular season.

Put it this way: When the Redskins lined up for their Senior Night recently, their two best players didnt take the field. Pitcher-infielder Aaron Perry, a Kentucky signee, was lost nearly three weeks ago with a stress fracture in his pitching elbow, suffered during a spring break trip to Myrtle Beach, and pitcher-infielder Garrett Gress, now the de facto ace of the staff, was sitting out after he rolled an ankle the game before.

Gress missed almost the entire final week of the regular season, including the Mountain State Athletic Conference tournament, but is fully expected back for the teams sectional opener Monday.

Coach Brian Sutphin and his team certainly werent ready to throw in the towel when misfortune struck. In fact, they won their two MSAC tournament games by a combined score of 19-5 to capture their fifth league title in the last seven years.

We knew when we came back from the beach that we had two weeks before sectional play, Sutphin said, and at the end of the day, its how much better are we going to get in those two weeks. Thats what its all about.

Gress sympathizes with Perry, who was hitting .628 and likely would have been a leading candidate for state player of the year, but said the teams goals remain the same.

Nothing changes, Gress said recently. I still believe we have the team to do it. Yeah, losing Aaron hurts. Its tough for him. Its his senior year and I wanted him to play with us and win with us, but weve got to go out there and do it, and I think we still have all the pieces.

Gress (7-0, 0.64 ERA) probably becomes the No. 1 option on the Redskins pitching staff. He deflects the attention, and again emphasized that it doesnt change his plans.

Im ready for that, he said. But its nothing different the way we look at it. I dont think weve ever really had an ace this year. We all just go out and we just throw our game. And I know every single one of us can go out there and throw strikes and win the ballgame.

In other Class AAA games involving Kanawha Valley teams on Monday, Capital (8-19) plays at St. Albans (24-6) and George Washington (22-6) hosts South Charleston (11-15) both at 6:30 p.m. in the opening round of Region 3 Section 1, while Riverside (4-18) visits Greenbrier East (13-11) at 6 p.m. in Region 3 Section 2.

In AA Region 4 Section 1 on Monday, Point Pleasant (6-22) is at Winfield (12-12) and Poca (6-19) visits Nitro (15-11). Both of those games are set to begin at 6.

Four more Valley teams are scheduled to make their postseason debut on Tuesday, weather permitting.

In AA Region 2 Section 2, second-seeded Herbert Hoover (11-15) hosts Mondays Nicholas County-Clay County winner at 6 p.m. In AA Region 4 Section 1, No. 2 seed Sissonville (15-9) plays at home at 6 against the Nitro-Poca winner.

After sitting out the opening day in Class A Region 3 Section 1, No. 1 seed Charleston Catholic (21-7) plays at 6 p.m. Tuesday at University of Charlestons Triana Field against Mondays Webster County-Valley winner.

Buffalo (11-13), the top seed in Class A Region 4 Section 2, gets its postseason underway at 6 p.m. Tuesday at home opposite Mondays Sherman-Hannan winner.

With only two sections in each of the four regions, the format for the regionals has also been altered into a best-of-three instead of single-elimination for the semifinals and finals, which had been done for decades.

Contact Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or Follow him on Twitter @RickRyanWV.

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May 8, 2017


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