CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Not all sectionals are created equal.
So when baseball's postseason begins today around West Virginia, there are a few sectionals to keep a keen eye on.
One of those resides right here in the Kanawha Valley, as the annual Class AAA skirmish between Nitro at St. Albans has added a twist this year - another state-ranked team and traditional power in Logan.
Region 4 Section 2 opens tonight at Nitro (19-10) with St. Albans (19-9) paying a visit to its cross-river rival at 6:30. On Tuesday, Logan (17-8) travels to SA for a 6:30 game.
All three teams have been part of the Gazette's state ratings this season.
Logan has had the upper hand on the other two this year, sweeping two games apiece from St. Albans and Nitro. The Red Dragons and Wildcats, meanwhile, have split a pair of games.
Teams have been known to hide pitchers from sectional opponents during the regular season in order to maintain an element of surprise. SA coach Rick Whitman, however, isn't sure if that tactic works.
"That theory - don't show your pitching - I mean, we've got four arms we're comfortable with,'' Whitman said. "But it's a three-team sectional. It doesn't necessarily mean who we threw [before] is going to throw against Nitro [now].''
In the first meeting with Nitro, SA threw one of its top pitchers, Clark Bryant, then went with seldom-used Joseph Call in last week's Mountain State Athletic Conference place-winner game.
Some of this week's other sectionals are not expected to be as cut-throat as Nitro-SA-Logan. Take AAA Region 4 Section 3, where Hurricane (23-4), the No. 1 team in the Gazette's rankings, squares off with Lincoln County (9-8), which dropped out of the MSAC this school year.
The Redskins, still smarting a bit from their 4-2 loss to Cabell Midland in the MSAC finals, would like to make amends for falling short of the state tournament the past two seasons.
Hurricane posted records of 27-6 last year and 26-5 in 2011 and captured a pair of MSAC championships, but never advanced to Power Park. Coach Brian Sutphin hopes his program can flip its luck from the last two years, knowing an MSAC title doesn't guarantee postseason success.
"That worked out well for us the last two years,'' Sutphin said with a smile. "It's such a good recipe.
"I have all the confidence in the world we'll get there [to postseason success]. We're going to get there. We're going to get better. It's May, and we're ready to get after it. It's a good lesson to be learned.''
If Hurricane does erase Lincoln County in their best-of-three series, it could meet up again with Midland. The Knights (17-10) take on Huntington (20-10) in the opener of Region 4 Section 4 today, with the loser meeting Spring Valley Tuesday.
Midland knocked off a pair of ranked teams - Huntington and Hurricane - in taking the MSAC crown last week.
"We want to be playing our best baseball at the end of the year,'' said Midland coach Tracy Brumfield. "We've always taught that - even a long time ago. You've got to be playing your best at the end.''
Another sectional of intrigue finds George Washington (20-10) and South Charleston (14-12) colliding in AAA Region 3 Section 3 after splitting two regular-season games.