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Kincaid's possible return poses big questions

Chris Dorst
Winfield coach Will Isaacs may have a tough decision on his hands if senior Dusty Kincaid rejoins the team.

Will Isaacs admits he may have a tough call on his hands in the coming days.

Winfield's coach said last week that injured senior Dusty Kincaid could be cleared to return to the team and perhaps even play before the season ends.

For any squad, that would be a welcome addition, especially since Kincaid - an infielder and pitcher - projected to be one of the Generals' top players this season.

But you couldn't blame Isaacs, or anyone connected with the team, for having second thoughts about the possibility.

Kincaid, who was struck in the head by a line drive in a game against Huntington on March 19, suffered a fractured skull that required emergency surgery. He's scheduled to have a recent CT scan read today, then medical personnel will make recommendations about his recovery.

Isaacs was asked in what capacity he might use Kincaid if he's cleared to play - perhaps as a pinch-hitter or courtesy runner or even return him to the mound to pitch?

"It's a tough call, not only as a coach, but as a parent,'' Isaacs said. "You think about your responsibility. What do you do with him?

"When he went down, it changed three different guys in the infield who are playing different positions we would never have expected them to play at the beginning of the season.''

Kincaid has joined the team in the dugout for some home games during his recovery, and has even made a few trips for road games. Isaacs said Kincaid tried his hand at some drills in a recent practice, running between second and third base.

"He ran a couple,'' Isaacs said, "and then he said, 'Phew! I'm out of shape.'

"It's just good having him back in any capacity, and if he does play, it would be the biggest bonus in the world. But we're just glad everything's progressing well. He's healing. Everything's back on the way to complete recovery and we're thankful the good Lord has wrapped his arm around him and brought him thus far.''

Today begins the final week of regular-season play for baseball teams around West Virginia, with sectionals starting on May 7.

Winfield (13-11) has two home games scheduled this week - Wednesday against Logan and Thursday against Ripley.

No payoff to long layoff

There's always been a bunch of down time in the postseason among contending teams in West Virginia high school baseball.

In part, that's because of the three-day moratorium on high school athletics caused by the statewide WESTEST (West Virginia Educational Standards Test), an assessment that measures student achievement.

However, this season some teams may not be able to bridge the down time with games as well as they have been doing. The dead period for high school athletics this year due to the WESTEST is May 14-16, which forces two distinct gaps in the baseball postseason.

The SSAC has set aside May 7-12 and May 17-19 for teams to complete their sectional tournaments, which are largely double-elimination. Some teams need only two days to accomplish this, so they'll be facing a long layoff between May 9 and the start of regional semifinals on May 21 or 22 (depending on their class and region).

"Baseball's a game of trying to keep your regular rhythms up,'' said Charleston Catholic coach Bill Mehle. "You want to play as many days of the week as you can, like you do in the regular season. If you're fortunate enough to win your section, there's a lot of practice and waiting in the postseason.''

In past years, the SSAC has allowed teams that were still alive in the postseason to play a regular-season game between their sectionals and regionals, or between the regionals and state tournament.

But because of the proliferation of dry weather this spring, few teams have had to call off or cancel games for rain. That means many are approaching the 32-game limit for the regular season.

Among Kanawha Valley teams, several have played 27 games - Capital, Poca, Riverside and South Charleston - with a full week left in the regular season, while Buffalo is already at 28. Hurricane and St. Albans stand at 26 heading into the two-round MSAC semifinals, which begin today. Sissonville has also played 26.

Catholic (21-4), which does not utilize the WESTEST, is among the teams at 25 games after having two dates rained out last week. The Irish have five scheduled for this week, potentially giving them two to plug in where necessary.

If all regional finals wrap up by May 24, as scheduled, that means another layoff of at least a week before the state tournament at Appalachian Power Park. The Class AAA state tournament games are set to begin May 31, and the other classes a day later.

Adding to the inactivity is the plight of Class A teams in Region 3 and 4. Because of recent consolidations in the southern part of the state, fewer Class A teams are left standing in this, the last year of the SSAC's most recent reclassification.

That means there are only two sections in each of those regions, and just one regional game - the finals on May 23 or 24. So conceivably, teams playing in those regions could sit idle for about two weeks.

"It's really a disservice to baseball,'' Mehle said. "I understand the rationale behind not having extracurriculars on those days [of the WESTEST], but I think keeping the kids on a regular schedule helps them better on tests.

"No matter what, you've got to be creative with long layoffs. Hopefully, if we win our sectional, we'll try to have a few games to schedule. I'm sure we'll be able to find another team to play.''

Adding even more confusion, said Nitro coach Steve Pritchard, is that some schools across West Virginia may opt to take their WESTEST break at different times than the one recommended by the state. Thus, some school systems could face two dead periods of three days apiece.

"There can be some messes across the state,'' Pritchard said. "Every school won't be taking the WESTEST at the same time. It's all up to the building principal. If he says you can't play those three days, you can't play.

"Something needs to be done. Of course, school and academics come first, but it seems like baseball is the sport being punished. It's always the one taking a beating.''

Line drives

  • Martinsburg must hate seeing the opposition with six runs - the Bulldogs have lost four games by identical 6-5 scores this season.
  • Win streaks: Petersburg has won 14 straight games, Logan 12, Charleston Catholic 10 and Ritchie County eight.
  • Madonna has suffered six of its eight losses in games where it held at least a four-run lead in the later innings.

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