By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Tonight could have been when as many as four sectional baseball champions were determined in the southernmost part of West Virginia.
Instead, Bluefield, PikeView and James Monroe are among seven area teams hoping to finally play a postseason game.
“The weather hasn’t really been cooperating with us and it is really tough to get on our field over here,” Bluefield senior Andrew Siegel said. “We have been practicing really good and getting some cage work in so I think we are ready to get on the field.”
Bluefield and PikeView had expected to begin Class AA, Region III, Section 4 action on Monday, but three straight days of washouts have left the teams still waiting to take the field.
“When you are so accustomed to playing almost every other day, it feels sort of awkward to have all these practice days, it would be a little different if you got to go outside,” said Bluefield head coach Justin Gilbert, whose Beavers have spent plenty of time in the indoor batting cages at Bowen Field. “We went one day out this week, we went to Mitchell yesterday, that helped some from being stuck inside the last four or five days.
“It gives us a chance to work on some things, sort of fine tune a few things, you can look at it both ways, but we are definitely ready to get outside more.”
The Beavers and Panthers hope to finally play today in the first of two games at Bowen Field at 4 p.m. If that facility isn’t ready for use — and it was covered in puddles of muddy water on Wednesday — it could be moved to PikeView.
The winner of that game will play James Monroe in the second game of a twinbill. There will also be a twinbill on Friday, and a single ‘if necessary’ game on Saturday. That is, as always, weather permitting.
“When we set this up earlier in the year, we had it where there was just one game a night where it is not really any pressure on any one team,” Gilbert said, “You get a day’s rest in between, you try to make it comfortable for yourself and Mother Nature makes it where she puts her twist on it.
“We can complain about the weather, but I think it adds a little excitement to it.”
Definitely, especially considering that today is the only day through the weekend when there isn’t a high probability of rain drenching area diamonds, but Siegel said the Beavers are prepared to play as much baseball as it takes to get it all in.
“With the schedule we have had this year, we have had two weeks where we have played almost every day and we went down to the beach and played a lot,” Siegel said. “I don’t think that will really affect us that much, it is just another game...
“I want to play as much as we can. We are looking forward to playing tomorrow.”
Gilbert expects not just pitching, but pitching depth to play a role in the team that survives to advance to regional play next week.
“There is solid pitching on all three staffs, that is going to make it entertaining,” Gilbert said. “One other thing about this sectional that is going to make even more interesting is you are not going to be able to ride one or two horses.
“With so many games being played you are going to have to get into your rotations. I think it is really going to make it to where the team that has the deepest staff is going to come out of this.”
Bluefield will send Trevor Mullins to the mound, while the Beavers expect to see PikeView ace Kevin Cottle.
“Trevor will go for us, he has had ample rest, he hasn’t pitched since last Monday against Mount View,” Gilbert said. “We have worked some of our arms to get a little deeper in that part of the game.
“We will go with Trevor tomorrow and see how it goes from there.”
Siegel knows all about Cottle, and hopes the work in the batting cages over the last few days will help the Beavers at the plate.
“Cottle is a good pitcher,” Siegel said. “He likes to get ahead in the count, but I think with the cage work we have been doing in here this week, I think it will get us ready for them.”
These clubs have met twice this season, with PikeView winning 9-6 and 5-4, both of which were played in Gardner.
“We lost to them twice, but the games with us have been really close, really competitive,” Siegel said. “I think we are all looking forward to playing them again in sectionals. It is going to be a good game, I think we are all looking forward to it.”
PikeView scored three runs over the final two innings in the first win over the Beavers, and tallied a run in the eighth in the one-run victory 19 days later.
“It has been a battle with them,” Gilbert said. “We know about them, they know about us, Coach (Josh) Wyatt does a great job of preparing that group, it is going to be fun.
“I look forward to it and hopefully the weather will cooperate and I think it will be some good baseball, at least I hope so.”
Close games are nothing unusual with these three teams. Bluefield has played James Monroe twice, losing 5-4 and winning 9-8. PikeView has lost twice to the Mavericks, both by one run, 4-3 and 6-5.
In all, five of the six games between the three teams have been decided by one run. No wonder pitching could be the key.
“It is just a matter of pitching really, that is really what it all boils down to, depending how you win or lose, you could possibly play five games in the next three days,” Gilbert said. “We have had some rest for our arms, we have five or six kids that we feel can throw for us.
“We feel like with the rest and everything it has definitely helped us, particularly if we have to play that amount of games in that many days.”
—Contact Brian Woodson