Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 10, 2014

Exciting night at Coppinger

By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Wednesday night was a long and exciting one at Bowen Field.

The semifinals of the 41st annual Coppinger Invitational Tournament saw four teams from the immediate area battle and fans from all four schools were on hand to cheer on their teams.

The opening game saw the Richlands Blue Tornado take on the Princeton Tigers. In the third inning Richlands took the lead only to see Princeton plate five runs to go back ahead. Richlands then chipped away at the Princeton lead while the Blue Tornado pitchers allowed only one Princeton hit after the explosive third inning.

Richlands tied the game at five in the top of the sixth on a Tigers’ error. Princeton got a runner aboard and to second in the bottom of the seventh, but could not score, sending the game to extra innings.

Ben Brown stepped to the plate in the top of the eighth and hit the first pitch he saw to deep left for a triple. He scored when the next batter, Matt Justus, lifted a sacrifice fly to center.

Princeton had its chance in the bottom of the eight. Leadoff hitter Billy Jack Varney was hit by a pitch and then stole second and went to third on a ground out. The next two Tiger batters, however, went down and Richlands grabbed the win and advanced to the Coppinger championship game on Saturday.

After the game Brown, who doubled earlier in the contest said “I knew they were going to start me off with a curveball and I was ready for it.” In addition to his hitting, Brown started on the mound for the Blue Tornado and pitched the first three innings. He did not figure in the decision. River Michaels got the win as he worked the final five frames.

Ian Southcott and Addision Wood shared duties on the mound for Princeton, Southcott starting and Wood working the last four innings and taking the loss.

Princeton coach Josh Wilburn said, “We just made too many mistakes and didn’t get timely hits.”

The Tigers committed three errors and left seven baserunners stranded.

Richlands coach Adam Davis said, “That was a big win for us. Ben’s hit in the eighth was big.”

In the nightcap Tazewell defeated Bluefield 18-8 in a game shortened by the mercy rule, but despite the early inning there was plenty of excitement.

The Bulldogs sent 10 batters to the plate in the first and scored five times and it appeared as if the romp were on. Hold on, wait a minute, the Beavers had a different idea as they charged back and scored twice in the opening frame, both runs coming on R.J. Bourne’s double off the wall in left center.

Tazewell later scored six runs in the fifth inning to take a 13-3 lead and it looked as if the game were going to end. Again Bluefield said, “Hold on, wait a minute.” Consecutive singles by Freshman Devin Goins, Justin Lightfoot and R.J. Bourne were followed by a two-run triple to dead centerfield by Trevor Mullins and that 13-3 Beaver lead was 13-6 with no outs. Mullins later scored and Bluefield was right back in the game.

The Bulldogs then bit back in the top of the sixth as they scored five times on five hits. The Beavers added one in the fifth but the Dogs still had a 10-run lead and the game ended.

While it may not have been the cleanest of games, the two teams combined for 12 errors, seven by Bluefield, five by Tazewell, there were swings and excitement. Tazewell rapped out 17 hits while Bluefield got 13. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a baseball game with 30 hits.

The Coppinger is a huge tournament. I was a member of the Mount View team in 1981 that won the championship. I didn’t see action as I was sporting crutches due to an ankle injury earlier in the season but I remember the excitement we experienced.

Now, 33 seasons later I am honored to work as a member of the media and also with Coppinger Tournament officials in helping young men take to the diamond and showcase their skills. Jeff Boyles, Ergie Smith, Tony Colobro, Mike Miles, Ray Maupin and others come together each April and help organize and implement a tradition that is remembered for a lifetime by those who are fortunate enough to participate.

Saturday evening Tazewell and Richlands will take to the turf at Bowen Field and will write another chapter in the history of the Coppinger Invitational Tournament. Good luck to both teams.

Bob Redd is a Daily Telegraph sportswriter. Contact him at bredd@bdtonline.com and Twitter @bdtredd.