Hoover, Point have multiple options on the mound
The good thing about having two solid pitchers is that you can choose which one to throw in a big game. And, of course, the bad thing is that you have to make that choice.
Both Herbert Hoover and Point Pleasant find themselves in that situation today during the Class AA state baseball tournament at Appalachian Power Park. First pitch will come at about 12:45 p.m.
The Huskies (26-8), seeking their first state title since 2007, can go with either right-hander Tristan Fields (7-1, 4.14 ERA) or lefty Zach Mullins (4-3, 2.93).
Point Pleasant (25-7), the No. 1 team in the Gazette's state ratings, can select from righty Austen Toler (8-1, 1.88) or left-hander Eric Roberts (5-0, 3.82).
"Roberts or Toler, I don't know which one will start,'' Point coach Jamie Higginbotham said. "Both have faced Hoover this year, and we're a little bit familiar with each other. I'm probably leaning toward Toler because he has the No. 1 record and everything.''
Of course, having Roberts in reserve might be a good thing, too. He fired a three-hitter with 11 strikeouts in the Region 1 title-game win against Magnolia.
"He didn't pitch that much this season because his shoulder bothered him from football,'' Higginbotham said of Roberts, who played quarterback on the Big Blacks' state runner-up football team.
Meanwhile, Hoover's Brian Young, making his first trip to the state tournament as a head coach, has his own arm to choose.
"We've talked about it with them,'' Young said earlier this week of Fields and Mullins, his top two pitchers. "We're undecided right now. We sat both of them down and talked to them, and we haven't made up our minds. We want to see how their arms react after not playing for a while.
"We let each of them throw four innings in an intrasquad game this week, and then see what their arms feel like. It depends how their arms and legs feel later in the week. We'll not know for sure until later in the week.''
Whoever gets the call for the No. 3-ranked Huskies will square off with a potent Point lineup, led by Roberts (.473), Brandon Toler (.427), Jason Stouffer (.412) and Alex Somerville (.386).
Hoover's batting order relies on leadoff man Corey Bird (.491, 36 stolen bases), Zach Wright (.407, 32 RBIs), Mullins (.396, seven homers, 42 RBIs) and Fields (.375).
Young said it didn't make any difference to him that his state tournament opponent is also a Cardinal Conference rival. Point Pleasant beat Hoover 13-4 and 4-1 in the regular season.
"It doesn't really matter at this point,'' Young said. "Playing a team we've played might be a little extra motivation for our kids. They know we've got to come out and play good baseball and have a little better focus, a little extra motivation.
"It also speaks of what type of competition these boys are used to playing in the Cardinal Conference. But to me it doesn't matter -- you go out and play another ballgame.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.