Hungry Hoover sweeps twin bill
FALLING ROCK, W.Va. -- Just getting there isn't good enough anymore for Herbert Hoover.
The Huskies came within an eyelash of winning a Class AA baseball championship last year, losing 1-0 to Wyoming East in the finals at Appalachian Power Park.
For a lot of programs, just making it to the state tournament for the first time in five years - as Hoover did last spring - would signal a successful season. And perhaps for Hoover in years past, that would have been enough to be satisfied. But no longer.
"Our players are very driven,'' said Huskies coach Brian Young. "They weren't satisfied. They came up two runs short and they came back this year with renewed focus. They haven't been that team that just lets up. They want to win.''
So far, that hunger has helped Hoover jump out to a 3-0 record following Saturday's 26-1, 20-0 home doubleheader sweep over Cardinal Conference rival Tolsia. The Huskies opened with a 13-9 win over Class AAA Winfield on Tuesday.
Expectations haven't dimmed for the Huskies, who won 27 games last season, which was four more victories than the team turned in during 2007 when it won the program's first and only state title.
"We expect to come out and do the same things we expect every year,'' Young said. "We set three main goals - win 20 games, win the Cardinal Conference and make the state tournament. So that's what we expect of them, and we feel that we do have a good nucleus back from last year, so we can put a good effort into achieving those goals.''
With one rejoinder. This time, the Huskies want to take it one game further.
"We were a little bit short last year,'' said senior outfielder Corey Bird, a Marshall recruit. "We're really hungry to get back to the state tournament and win it this time. Last year, we actually played the better team in the semifinals [beating Point Pleasant 7-1] and didn't come back ready to play the next day and Wyoming got us.
"It was a huge accomplishment to get there last year, to get to states. Last year our goal wasn't to win a championship. Our main goal was just to get there. This year, our goal is to win a state championship.''
The Huskies lost just three senior starters off last year's squad, although one of those was Zach Mullins, a top pitcher. Tristan Fields (8-1, 74 strikeouts in 611/3 innings) will anchor the staff this season.
Bird hit .483 last season and was a first-team all-state outfielder. Other returning starters include second baseman Hunter White, shortstop Ryan Shamblin, first baseman Austin Thomas, third baseman Cody Bowen and catcher Scooter Farmer.
"They've worked hard in the off-season,'' Young said, "and played a lot of ball together and in the summer, and they've come back with a good focus and ready to go. They've been working hard for us and even with us being inside a lot [because of the weather] they haven't let up at all. So we've been really pleased with that.''
In Saturday's opener, Bowen came within one out of pitching a mercy-rule no-hitter, but Zach Perry's two-out single in the top of the fifth scored Seth McMillion with the only run for Tolsia (0-4). Bowen fanned 10.
Shaun Dotson laced a three-run triple for Hoover and was one of six Huskies with two hits apiece - the others were White, Shamblin, Bowen, Thomas and Bryan Crosier.
In the second game, three pitchers - Matthew Justice, Farmer and Joel Ridenour - combined on the shutout. Matt Holstein went 5 for 5 with five RBIs, Ridenour was 4 for 4 and drove in a pair and Timmy Hopkins (2 for 3) had three RBIs.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.