CHARLESTON, W.Va. — And so, it all comes down to this.
As Point Pleasant prepares for its shift to Class AAA this upcoming fall, the baseball program finds itself in a very familiar place for one final time — playing for a Class AA championship at Appalachian Power Park in the final weekend of the high school sports season.
The Big Blacks (25-7) enter their final weekend as a member of the Class AA ranks with one simple goal — win two games and one illustrious title that has eluded this program both over the years and most of this school year.
“We often talk to the kids about how football is the only sport you can go out with a win in and not win a state title. Of course, we get to the state final this fall and lose,” PPHS coach James Higginbotham said after its 6-3 win over Magnolia last week in the regional final. “We’ve had a lot of near-misses. Football gets to the finals this year, boys basketball reached the state quarterfinals and the boys track team finished second at the state meet recently. Wrestling has had success, but they are the only ones that seem to have any luck at winning a state title as a team.
“This will be our fifth trip to state in six years and we’ve twice played in the state final, only to come up short in the end both times. We, particularly the players that have been here before, want to change all of that this weekend. We want to leave Class AA on a good note and we know it will take a lot of hard work and good fortunes to make that happen.”
The Big Blacks finished as state runners-up in baseball both in 2008 and 2009, suffering losses to eventual champions Logan (13-3) and Lincoln County (6-2) in those respective championship contests. PPHS also lost semifinal contests to Grafton (3-2) in 2007 and Braxton County (9-6) in 2010.
Point’s previous appearance at the state baseball tournament before the 2007 campaign was 1972. Also, the last three teams to eliminate PPHS in the state tournament have gone on to win the Class AA crown.
Point Pleasant — which has won 12 of its last 14 contests — will face a familiar foe in the second AA semifinal Friday when it battles Herbert Hoover (26-8) at approximately 12:45 p.m. The first AA semifinal at 10 a.m. features Wyoming East (27-5) and Liberty Harrison (10-21), with the winners advancing to Saturday’s finale.
The Big Blacks have had the Huskies’ number so far this spring, as Point claimed a 13-4 home win on April 24 and a 4-1 decision at HHHS back on May 1. In fact, only two in-state teams at the Class AA level has managed a to score a win over Point Pleasant this season — Chapmanville posted a 10-6 win over the Cardinal Conference champions back on March 31 and Wayne earned a 10-8 decision back on April 16.
Point’s other five losses this season are to Wahama twice (3-0 and 14-9), Charleston Catholic (5-1) and Buffalo (3-1), as well as a 6-4 setback to Westfield (Va.) at the Mingo Bay Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The Big Blacks have twice owned six-game winning streaks this year and are currently riding a three-game win streak headed into the weekend.
Point Pleasant has outscored opponents this spring by a 316-145 margin, and 10 of its 25 wins have been by 10-or-more runs. The Big Blacks have also scored at least once in every game this season, with the exception of a 3-0 setback to Wahama in the third game of the regular season.
The Huskies enter Friday with an eight-game winning streak, which ironically began after PPHS handed them a 4-1 loss at home back on April 16. HHHS has outscored opponents 68-31 during that winning streak and also has nine wins by 10-or-more runs this year.
Hoover has five guys hitting over .350 for the season, led by Corey Bird with a .491 average and 30 RBIs. Zach Wright is hitting .407 with 32 RBIs, while Zach Mullins is batting .397 with team-bests of seven homers and 42 RBIs. Tristan Fields is batting .375 with three homers and 30 RBIs, followed by Cody Bowen with a .356 average. Hunter White has also driven in 30 RBIs for the Huskies.
Wyoming East owns a six-game winning streak headed into Friday’s matchup with Liberty Harrison, which currently owns only its second two-game winning streak of the season. Both two-game streaks have also come in the postseason.