By KYLE LOVERN
The Mingo Central Miners are preparing for their first-ever sectional tournament in baseball.
The games will be played at Chapmanville. The Miners will take on Scott High School on Monday, May 7 at 6:00 p.m.
Then on Tuesday, May 9, Mingo Central will take on perennial Class AA power Chapmanville.
Scott goes up against Chapmanville in the round robin event on Wednesday, then the finals will be on Thursday, May 10.
Central coach Walt Cline hopes his squad can peak at the right time.
“I hope the schedule we have played has prepared us for tournament play. Baseball and basketball are different than football in that records don’t matter everyone plays in the tournament,” Cline said. “I always took the same approach in basketball and that always worked out well at tournament time. There was no other way to approach being able to be competitive in the first year in AA for the tournament.”
“All the kids had faced Class Single A pitching their entire high school years, with maybe 4-or-5 AA games on the schedule in the past each year. I decided if they had to face quality pitching playing AA and AAA teams every night, we would be an AA team by tournament time. I don’t think people understand the step up in competition it is from A to AA.”
“The teams we play have faced AA pitching every night since they have been freshmen so it was a big change for our kids to compete at that level every night,” Cline added.
Cline had been the head baseball and basketball coach at Gilbert before the consolidation of the four schools to form Mingo Central.
“I could have scheduled much easier and went for a good regular season record but my kids wouldn’t have been prepared come tournament time. As the old saying goes, if you want to get better you have to play competition to make you better,” Cline said of his tough regular season slate.
“I feel it will be a competitive tournament with Scott and Chapmanville in the sectional. If we cut down on the errors, get quality pitching and timely hitting, I like our chances as well as anyone in the tournament. Chapmanville has the advantage going in playing at home, a bye in the first game, and being the defending state champion,” Cline said.
“But the kids have faced enough quality teams that Chapmanville should be just another team on the schedule. I would be very disappointed if we weren’t playing for the sectional championship with the progress we have made from day one until now,” he added.
Either senior Jacob Staton or senior Chris Atkins are scheduled to get the start on the mound against Scott Monday night and Austin Reed is slated to start against Chapmanville Tuesday night. “Either of these guys are capable of beating both teams if we play behind them, and score them some runs,” Cline said. Garth Simpkins and Ashton Cline could see action in relief of the starters.
“It’s double elimination so the tournament will run into Thursday or Friday and if we play from the first inning until the last out we should be there at the end,” Cline said.
Seniors Josh and John May (twin brothers), Nick Lee, Chris Atkins, Ashton Cline, Austin Trent and Gabe Vinson hope to see their high school careers continue. Other possible starters are juniors Matt Lester and Garth Simpkins and sophomore Alex “Booger” Lee.