MATEWAN – The Matewan Tigers will face the Man Hillbillies in the Region 4 tournament held at Matewan May 23.
The Tigers lost twice to the Hillbillies during the regular season - 11-8 at Man and 11-1 at home.
The 13-9 Tigers’ path to become champions of Section 4 came after defeating the Burch Bulldogs twice and doing the same to the Williamson Wolfpack.
This is Matewan’s eighth consecutive sectional championship and proudly boasts 16 of the last 17 sectional titles.
The last state title for the Tigers was in 2003 when they defeated Greenbrier West 9-7.
MHS Coach Ron Cantley told WDN he will depend tremendously on his seniors.
“They expect to win,” he said.
Cantley said he is leaning toward starting powerhouse Cody Centers on the mound against Man. Centers had been a force on the hill as well as with the bat.
Matewan hit three homers during the sectional and Centers was one of the Tigers that smacked it over the fence.
Matewan has several that can swing the bat with power. Besides Centers, Cantley mentioned Garth Simpkins, Jacob Staton and Austin Reed.
“I think we are peaking at the right time and home-field advantage will help.”
With consolidation looming, this will be the Tigers’ final chance at a state championship berth. Cantley believes this could be a motivational tool for the Tigers.
He expressed a concerned about Man’s pitching.
“I think that is why we have had trouble with them,” he said.
The coach said the team will work on this while preparing for the game.
The Hillbillies have also played more games that the Tigers. Weather and bad field conditions have impaired the squad.
“That’s going to hurt us with less time on the field,” Cantley said.
But, Matewan has a mature bunch of young men and fear is not a weakness of the team. The year began in chaos with the arrest and dismissal of former coach Danny “BB” Perkins.
“It has been a wild year,” said Cantley. “It was almost like the boys had to mature. But, they never quit. They were on the field practicing even without a coach.”
Man is making its third straight appearance in the Region 4 semi-finals and was Class A runners-up in state 2009 and 2010.
The Hillbillies are chasing their first state title.
The 14-15 Hillbillies defeated the Gilbert Lions 17-0 and 12-2 to capture the Class A Region 4 Section 3 championship.
Junior Jacob Riggins is expected to get the start for Man. Riggins is 4-3 with a 4.25 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 29 innings. He has been one of Man’s top pitchers this season sharing the workload with several others, including juniors Nick Carter, Andrew Merritt and Jordan Simpson.
Simpson and senior Tyler Grimmett are the Hillbillies top run producers and top hitters in the heart of the lineup. Simpson leads the team with a .483 average, nine home runs, 42 RBI and 35 runs.
Grimmett hit four home runs in the sectional tournament tying him with Simpson for the team lead in homers. Grimmett is hitting .476 with five doubles, nine home runs and 34 RBI.
Riggins has raised his average to .324 with five doubles and 17 RBI.
Thomas Blair, who hit a grand slam in Man’s 11-1 victory over Matewan on April 25, is batting .364 with three home runs, 25 RBI and 13 stolen bases. J.T. Twardy is hitting .340 with a team high nine doubles, one home run, 20 RBI and 11 stolen bases.
Shane Browning is batting .328 with five doubles, three home runs and 17 RBI. Merritt has a .338 average with six doubles, two home runs and 12 RBI.
Carter is hitting .287 with eight doubles and 13 RBI but he is leading the team with 22 base on balls. Senior Wade Smith has struggled at the plate, hitting only .237, but has two home runs and has driven in 19 runs.
The victor will advance to face Charleston Catholic/Wahama winner Wednesday at the site of the winner.