Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

April 2, 2014

Weather won’t put damper on Coppinger

BLUEFIELD — Rain, and lots of it, is in the forecast for Friday.

Not a surprise.

Why? The 41st Coppinger Invitational is slated to begin on Friday.

As has become tradition over the years, not only is the Coppinger known for more than four decades of  competitive baseball, but also for rain or snow or any other kind of weather issues that annually provide headaches for tourney organizer Jeff Boyles.

“It is just something you have to deal with,” Boyles said. “If we could control the weather, we would not be running this tournament, we would have a whole lot more money.

“It can be frustrating at times, but everybody in it has just been so understanding and easy to work with. Fortunately we are able to work things out.”

This  year’s Coppinger Invitational includes 10 teams and will be played only at Bowen Field. It is also a single-elimination format, with the championship game slated for next Saturday at 1 p.m.

Boyles expects to return to a more traditional format in the future.

“Some of the more traditional teams like Summers (County), James Monroe, Liberty-Raleigh, they already filled their schedules up,” Boyles said. “West Virginia is allowed to play like 33 games and when some of those schools schedule those games, there is not a window there for a tournament.

“Hopefully we will be able to get back to the 16-team format we have had in years past.”

This year’s field is still quite competitive, including Richlands (3), Tazewell (2) and Princeton (1), who have won the last six Coppinger titles.

Tazewell has won a total of eight, while Richlands and Mount View have claimed five apiece.

“It will be real good competitive tournament,” Boyles said. “We are looking forward to it.”

Weather permitting, as always, the 41st version of the Coppinger begins on  all begins on Friday, with Bluefield (2-4) playing Montcalm at 5 p.m., followed by Princeton (3-2) and Mount View (0-3) in first round games.

Bluefield, which snapped a four-game losing skid with a win over Mount View on Wednesday, is looking for its first Coppinger Invitational title since way back in 1977, the fourth year of the event.

Montcalm (1-1) is playing in both the Coppinger Invitational and Yo-Na Invitational, which will begin on Saturday at Skip Dillow Field in Bastian, and will also conclude the following weekend.

The Bluefield-Montcalm winner will meet Grundy and talented pitcher Charles McCoy in a quarterfinal game on Monday, with the survivor of that game advancing to Wednesday’s semifinals to face either PikeView or Tazewell.

The second opening round game slated for Friday is Princeton and Mount View. Princeton (3-3) has scored 11, 9 and 9 run in three wins, and allowed 11 (twice) in two defeats. Mount View (0-3) has surrendered 54 runs in three games this season.

That winner will also play again on Monday against Nicholas County (0-2), with the survivor playing either Richlands or Fayetteville in Wednesday’s semifinals.

Two quarterfinal games are slated for Saturday, beginning with Richlands and Fayetteville at 1 p.m., followed by PikeView and Tazewell.

Richlands (2-3), which is led by senior standout Ben Brown, will face Fayetteville (6-2), which had won six straight before Wednesday’s contest with Independence.

Saturday’s second game features the possible tournament favorite against the tournament’s historically dominant team.

PikeView (7-2), which has won five games in a row, was an extra inning loss to Independence last May from advancing to the Class AA state tournament in Charleston.

When Josh Wyatt took over as coach of the Panthers in 2010, one of his first moves was to get PikeView back in the Coppinger, having not played in it since the first year the school was created.

PikeView reached the Coppinger semifinals last season, falling 5-3 to eventual runner-up Princeton.

Wyatt makes no secret the Panthers would like to bring home the championship trophy.

“Absolutely. It was one of our preseason goals that the boys put on their checklist going forward,” Wyatt said. “It is a trophy we would like to have in our trophy case, we know how prestigious it is to our area.

“Most importantly, though, is the tournament atmosphere. We will get into our third or fourth pitchers so it will be a good test to see what we have got.”

Waiting for PikeView will be Tazewell (2-0), which is under the direction of new head coach Aaron Buchanan. The Bulldogs have won eight Coppinger titles, and are certainly eyeing a ninth.

“I know they have set up this tournament with good competition,” Wyatt said. “There are some good traditional teams and we start with Tazewell. That present a good challenge for us.

“You will probably start off with someone’s number one pitcher right off the bat. It will be one and done if you don’t bring your offense.”

The Coppinger Invitational is named for Allen D. Coppinger Jr, who helped create the event 41 years ago. Others to play a role in the tourney were John Chmara, Glynn Carlock, Ergie Smith, Tony Colobro and more.

“You never know how long something will last, but we do it as a tribute to those who started it...,” said Boyles, who added the Coppinger started the  tourney all those years ago to give local baseball players the opportunity to play in a competitive environment at top-notch facilities, such as Bowen Field, Hunnicutt Field in Princeton and Tazewell’s Lou Peery Field.

“There are a lot of kids that don’t get the opportunity to play in a facility like Bowen Field and a lot of kids want to play at Bowen Field,” Boyles said. “Unfortunately, we take it for granted that we have these type of facilities, but a lot of kids don’t have this.

“That was the whole reason Allen and Coach Chmara did this to give those kids the opportunity to play at these minor league parks. Hopefully we can keep this tradition going and allow these kids to play on these type of facilities.”

One tradition Boyles hopes to avoid are issues with weather. Perhaps, the rain, if it does come on Friday, will leave in time to play that night.

If not, the show will go on.

“If the rain holds off, we will get it done,” Boyles said. “If it rains on us, we will change to another time or to a different date or to a different place.

"Hopefully we will get it in. We have 40 years worth and we have always got them in. We will get in 41, I am sure.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

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