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Midland, Woodrow carry streaks into AAA semifinals

Courtesy photo
Cabell Midland's Seth Kinker pitched an eight-inning shutout against Hurricane in the Region 4 semifinals.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Both Cabell Midland and Woodrow Wilson will end lengthy state tournament droughts when they meet in a Class AAA semifinal in today's nightcap at Appalachian Power Park.

Solid Midland teams have been swallowed up in the ultra-tough Region 4 over the past few years, but the Knights (23-10) finally broke through to earn their first state berth since 2006, when they were defeated 7-4 by South Charleston in the title game. Midland enters the state tournament on a 10-game winning streak.

The last appearance for Woodrow Wilson (20-10) was also a championship game loss as the Flying Eagles fell 11-4 to Jefferson in 2007. Woodrow has won 13 of its last 15 games, including a win over defending state champion Princeton in the Region 3 semifinals.

But while state tournament experience will be new to all of the players, both coaches are focused on not putting added pressure to tonight's contest.

"We haven't told them a whole lot really," Woodrow coach Mark Daniel said. "We've kept practice the same as we have the whole year. We're going to do what we do best and try to make some things happen. You try to treat it like any other game even though it's not, but you don't want to put too much pressure on them."

Midway through the 2013 baseball campaign, a state tournament matchup between the Knights and Flying Eagles looked pretty unlikely at best. Woodrow dropped its first four games and sat at just 7-8 on April 18, while Midland built a 13-10 record before its strong closing stretch.

"A lot of it was just getting outside," Daniel said of the Eagles' slow start. "Our first four games were the first four times we got outside to practice. School was canceled a lot and you're not allowed to practice in Raleigh County when school is closed."

Midland's 10-game winning streak includes two wins over then-No. 1 Hurricane.

"Us getting into the final four of the [Mountain State Athletic Conference tournament] was a big deal," Midland coach Tracy Brumfield said. "No one thought we'd be there. Then we beat Huntington and we were fortunate enough to beat Hurricane and that helped us a lot.

"We told our kids, it doesn't matter where you start at, the games in the regular season mean nothing. You've got to learn from mistakes and win late in the year, and we've been able to do that."

Both teams have ridden solid starting pitching and timely hitting to get to Charleston this week.

Hunter Greco (6-2, 1.47 ERA, 59 strikeouts in 472/3 innings) and Josh Rakes (6-2, 2.61 ERA, 40 strikeouts in 532/3 innings) have created a nice one-two punch at the top of Woodrow's rotation. Greco also leads the team with a .449 batting average and three home runs and has driven in 24 runs. Logan Wriston has a team-high 25 RBIs and is hitting .350.

"They've got a pretty good team," Brumfield said of Woodrow. "[Greco] throws the ball real well and he's an athletic kid. [Wriston] swings the bat pretty well. They're in this spot for a reason. They've won 13 out of the last 15 or something like that and it's teams like that you've got to be aware of."

Midland's Seth Kinker has been flashing his pitching exploits all season, culminating in an eight-inning shutout performance over Hurricane in the Region 4 semifinals, driving the Knights to a 1-0 win.

He also leads his team in batting average (.490), stolen bases (15), RBIs (29) and doubles (10).

Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, ryan.pritt@wvgazette.com, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.

 


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