"The thing that will help us out a little bit is being there last year. It gives them experience to know what to expect when they go down there.''
Hoover made it to the finals last year before losing 1-0 to Wyoming East, like Independence a Region 3 contender.
The Huskies are expected to throw junior Tristan Fields (7-1, 1.84 ERA), though Cody Bowen (6-1, 1.79) looked good against Wayne in the regional finals. Cuthbert plans on using Brian Sexton (6-3, 3.09), with Jeremy McGinnis (5-0, 1.03) in reserve.
Each team has strong hitters throughout the lineup.
Hoover sports seven players with batting averages of .370 or better - Corey Bird (.477, 51 stolen bases), Ryan Shamblin (.446, 39 RBIs), Austin Thomas (.434, 39 RBIs), Fields (.424, 42 RBIs), Bowen (.413, 33 RBIs), Shaun Dotson (.386, 42 RBIs) and Hunter White (.371).
Indy counters with hitting from Drew D'Angelo (.509, 57 runs), Wyatt Adkins (.444, 34 RBIs), Andrue Hughart (.416, 35 RBIs), McGinnis (.392, 34 RBIs) and Brad Huffman (.330, 32 RBIs).
Cuthbert feels like his team has survived, and at times thrived against, a difficult schedule dotted with Class AAA opponents, preparing his players for this weekend.
"We went to the St. Albans tournament,'' Cuthbert said, "and played them and Parkersburg South. We've played George Washington, Greenbrier East twice, Princeton . . . We've had a pretty rough schedule. To survive that, I think, made us better toward the end of the year.
"For a stretch of two weeks, every time you turned around, if we weren't playing a triple-A team we were playing Wyoming East or Liberty or some of the other better teams in this area.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.