Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 15, 2014

A look ahead to the spring sports season, and a plea for a little help

By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Prep sports begins on Monday.

Guess what is in the forecast?

Yep, there is a 60 percent chance of rain and possibly as much as three inches of snow, and a high of 43.

Welcome, prep sports, to Four Seasons Country.

Our fickle weather already reared its ugly and very cold head. This past Tuesday I was sitting at Bowen Field enjoying the sun and a baseball doubleheader, and two days later, the temps started at 60 and ended around 10 with snow falling from the sky by the time I got home to my cats.

At least the weather is supposed to improve throughout this week, and hopefully we will get in some baseball, softball, soccer, tennis and even some track and field.

We do have one team still playing an indoor sport, with the Bluefield boys basketball team back in Charleston for the Class AA state tournament, looking for a repeat.

Here is hoping the Beavers can bring home another championship.

As for spring sports, let's get it started, and hope for the same.

I have been critical in the past of spring sports in the area, and what I have perceived as a lack of emphasis on those sports. Yet, in recent years, there has been success from Princeton winning the baseball title in 2012 to Graham playing for the soccer crown the same year, along with Grace Sarver dominating the tennis scene from Bland County.

It has gotten better, and it is mostly the coaches who are making a difference, such as Graham girls soccer coach Hank Furry, Josh Wilburn with Princeton baseball and PikeView's Josh Wyatt, all of whom have put a focus on their program, the kids have bought in and success has followed.

Let's look at some of what to look for in the coming months.

While admittedly my memory is hazy, especially with trying to get extra sleep to cover the Beavers in a pair of 9:30 a.m. games in Charleston — who makes these schedules — here is a look at a few things to look for in 2014.

•PikeView baseball: It took two days to play its regional contest in what was a rain-soaked spring, with the Panthers dropping a heartbreaking 4-3 decision at Independence. These Panthers should be considered a threat for a state tourney berth, but will have to replace the Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Year Kevin Cottle on the mound.

•James Monroe softball: The Mavericks made it all the way to the Class AA state championship game before falling to Wayne. James Monroe has recently played for the state crown in softball and volleyball, which is great for an area that struggles with both of those sports.

•Tazewell baseball: Lou Peery was a big man with big shoes and an even bigger heart for baseball, but the Tazewell baseball coach retired after last season. Aaron Buchanan, who had been Peery's faithful assistant for years, gets the job of filling his place in the dugout and third base coaches box.

•Ditto for James Monroe baseball: John Mustain has stepped down from his beloved baseball program after taking over the football program in Lindside. He took the Mavericks to the Class AA state title game in 2011. Nick Newberry is now in charge. Hopefully the Cincinnati Reds will give Mustain some baseball to enjoy in 2014.

•Expect rain in early April: The Coppinger Invitational will return on April 4, and continue through April 12. It has become tradition for it to rain, snow or both to coincide with the arrival of the annual event.

•Return of the Yo-Na: If it rains during the Coppinger, add the Yo-Na Invitational in Bastain to the victims. The small school tournament that has become quite a hit will also be held from April 5-12.

•Graham girls soccer reached the state finals two years ago, and lost in the regionals last season. Hank Furry has lost plenty of talent in recent seasons, but always manages to put a winning product on the field.

•Record watch: Carter Rasnick, a talented Tazewell soccer player needs 25 goals to become the school's all-time leading scorer. The record he breaks belongs to his brother, the late-T.J. Rasnick, who was as good an athlete as the Bulldogs have ever had.

•Both Bluefield and Graham have talented tennis players who made state tourney appearances last spring, and some even brought home state titles. It could happen again.

•PikeView seemingly puts the most emphasis on track in our coverage area. They always send plenty of athletes to state competition, and they actually report their meets.

••Now for my biggest hope for the 2014 prep sports season.

•Report your games: Our call-in rates for sporting events in the spring is not good. The Daily Telegraph will be glad to report on your games for all the sports as long as they are reported to us.

Too often we hear nothing at all, and to be honest, when I have to make the choices on what gets covered during every season, very often the final decision is who is best at reporting their games.

If those coaches can take the time to make a phone call or send an e-mail, then they deserve some coverage, and we do the best we can with our small staff.

We have one track program, for instance, that will remain invisible for three months, and two days before the state meet, call and want coverage for their athletes.

How about reporting your results from the start, and keep it going to the end of the season. Parents are known to call and lament how hard their kids work and how they deserve some recognition, and we agree.

We just need some help from the coaches.

Some varsity coaches could take lessons from our area middle school football and basketball coaches, who never miss reporting a game.

Our contact information is 304-327-2813 and sports@bdtonline.com. It only takes a few minutes, and your players will appreciate it. So will the parents.

Also, please call as soon after a game is over as possible to help us make our deadlines. After missing so many of those during the helter-skelter basketball season, it would be nice get everyone off my back for a few months.

Hey, if they played every game at 9:30 a.m., it wouldn't be so bad. Even I could make a deadline with that kind of time. I don’t encourage it though, morning is not the favorite the time of the day for sports guys.

—Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at bwoodson@bdtonline.com / Twitter @bdtwoodson