CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Admittedly, it's a long way from Appalachian Power Park and the state tournament the first week of June, but a pair of Kanawha Valley teams have been handling the pressure pretty well so far.
Hurricane (AAA) and Herbert Hoover (AA) just completed weeks as the No. 1 teams in their respective classes in the Gazette's state ratings and it didn't seem to bother them much.
The Redskins won three of four games, improving to 13-3, and the Huskies went 3-0 to boost their season record to 13-0 and remain as one of the few unbeaten teams in West Virginia. Thus, each team retained its top spot in this week's Gazette rankings.
Hurricane has worn the bull's-eye a bit longer than Hoover, as it begins its third week atop Class AAA.
Solid pitching has been the backbone of the Redskins' success. Aside from losses of 10-6 to Huntington and 10-0 to Powhatan, Va., in Myrtle Beach, they've allowed just 26 runs in their other 14 games, and have tossed four shutouts.
Senior Riley Metz, one of Hurricane's ace pitchers, thinks the team has been able to deal with the added attention.
"We've been handling it fine,'' Metz said. "Coach [Brian] Sutphin always tells us people are going to throw their best shot at us, so we're always ready.''
Sutphin feels as if his program has learned to be comfortable with the spotlight. Over the past three years, the Redskins have won 66 of 79 games and take aim at their third straight Mountain State Athletic Conference championship this season.
"We're at the point where we've been there and done that,'' Sutphin said. "We've won the MSAC twice in a row and we've won all these games, but at the end of the day, that's not our ultimate goal. I think we're happy with the rankings, but certainly we know the idea is to be ranked there in June.
"I think that we've got a good ballclub. I wouldn't trade my guys for anybody. But, shoot, there are a lot of good teams out there. Hey, Princeton won it last year and I'll take the liberty of saying they were never ranked No. 1.''
Senior designated hitter Connor Adams knows the No. 1 rating doesn't mean anything once postseason play rolls around. By then, it's the teams that are playing at their highest level that will survive and advance to the state tournament.
"We're not really worried about the rankings or anything,'' Adams said. "We're just playing for one thing - and that's to get better every day. Anything we can do to get better, we're going to do. We're not focused on the rankings.''
Hurricane was able to hold onto No. 1 despite a 7-6 bottom-of-the-seventh loss to Parkersburg South in the finals of the Ed Carter Memorial Tournament on Saturday, the Skins' third game in 24 hours.
Hoover has posted some incredible numbers so far during its unbeaten start.