The stakes get even higher this week as the postseason moves into the regional finals.
Herbert Hoover in Class AA and Buffalo in Class A are the only remaining teams from the Kanawha Valley that will be looking to punch their tickets for the state tournament, which takes place May 23-24 at Jackson Park in Vienna.
Hoover (22-4), which finished third in the final state coaches association rankings, will host No. 4 Wayne (25-5) at 6 p.m. Thursday in the AA Region 4 final. Top-ranked Buffalo (27-7), the defending state champion, will host No. 4 Man (14-5) in the Class A Region 4 final. (See Page 2B for regional finals schedule.)
Buffalo has been in a strange position, waiting two weeks to play after wrapping up its sectional championship.
Since Class A Region 3 (Fayetteville and Richwood) and Region 4 (Buffalo and Man) only have two sections instead of four, the winners advanced straight to regional finals play and skipped the semis. The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission mandates that all finals are Thursday in all three classes.
"You can practice only so much,'' said Buffalo veteran coach Darrell Moore. "You play so many games in a short period of time then it just drags and drags.
"You can practice your fielding a lot in game situations, but the hitting is what is different. You just don't know how to prepare. It's hard to get a good practice out of [our players]. There's a lot of distractions now. It's hard to keep them motivated.''
The Bison have played two games against teams still in the postseason to help fill the void. Buffalo beat Sherman 3-1 last week and lost to Parkersburg South 3-0 Saturday. Buffalo has also split up during practice for intra-squad scrimmages.
"The kids aren't thinking about that,'' Moore said. "They're thinking about their opponent and going to the state tournament.
"It doesn't make any difference who you play in between, you know there's only one game that matters. You don't play with the attitude. I think they'll be ready. During tournament time they're pretty focused.''
In addition to Man, No. 2 Moorefield (31-4), which has the best record in Class A, No. 3 St. Marys (22-4) and No. 5 Wheeling Central (21-7) are the only other ranked teams still alive.