Bill Lusk | WVOW Sports
MAN For the second consecutive season and the fourth time overall, Class A No. 3 Wahama and No. 4 Man will meet for the Class A Region 4 championship beginning Monday at Wahama High School.
This will be the sixth time that both the Hillbillies and White Falcons have met in the postseason. Man defeated Wahama for the Class A Region 4 championship in 2005, 2009 and 2021 while Wahama defeated Man twice in the Class A state tournament. The White Falcons beat the Hillbillies for the 2015 Class A championship and then again in the 2016 state tournament.
It comes as no surprise that the two will meet again with a Class A state tournament berth on the line, but that doesn’t mean that both schools had an easy path to get to the regional finals.
In fact, both Man and Wahama had to overcome a little adversity to get out of its respective sections.
Man, who defeated Tug Valley and Buffalo, to advance to the Class A Region 4 Section 1 championship where Sherman plated 11 runs in the first inning to force a winner-take-all finale for the sectional championship last Monday.
The Hillbillies scored eight unanswered runs to break a 1-1 tie and defeat the Tide 10-3 to capture its second consecutive sectional championship.
Wahama had a tougher task as they had to fight out of the loser’s bracket of their Class A Region 4 Section 2 tournament. The White Falcons defeated Calhoun County, but lost to Ravenswood 11-10 and had to defeat Calhoun County for a second time to emerge from the loser’s bracket.
The White Falcons defeated Ravenswood, 9-2 and 3-0, to capture its third consecutive sectional championship.
“As always, Wahama is very well coached,” Man coach Mike Crosby said. “They are fundamentally sound, and we better be ready to play.”
The White Falcons have won 15 of their last 17 games and enter the contest with a 23-5 record. Wahama will be looking to avenge last season’s loss to the Hillbillies in the Class A Region 4 finals where Man won 4-0 and 5-1 to advance to Charleston for the first time since 2016.
The Hillbillies will be looking for their eighth trip to the state tournament in school history. Man won the 2014 Class A championship and were runners-up in 2009, 2010, 2015 and 2021. The Hillbillies also qualified for the state tournament in 2005 and 2016.
Man, winners of seven of its last nine games, brings a 20-9 record into Monday’s contest, but Crosby feels that his squad has yet to peak.
“I’m looking for us to hopefully peak and bring it all together with just these few games left,” Crosby said. “We are really good when everyone is on the same page, unfortunately that hasn’t happened a lot this season.”
Six of the Hillbillies nine in the starting is hitting .370 or better this season led by Preston Blankenship (.468). Brady Hall-Montgomery (.457), Colton Miller (.419), Caleb Blevins (.417) and Jace Adkins (.402), and Braxton Messer (.373) are enjoying great seasons at the plate for Man.
Blankenship leads the team with 45 RBIs, 44 hits and 14 doubles and he shares the team lead in triples with Adkins and Blevins, who have a trio of three-baggers this season. Blankenship also has two home runs this season and trails Blevins, who has three four-baggers, in that category.
Blevins has 35 hits to go along with 13 doubles and 37 RBIs this season. Hall-Montgomery has 35 hits, 13 doubles and 38 RBIs. Adkins has 35 hits, nine doubles, three triples, has driven in 22 and scored a team-high 41 runs and been hit nine times this season.
Miller has 31 hits on the year from the nine spot in the lineup and has driven in 16 runs and Caleb Vance, who is hitting .313, has driven in 26 runs this season for Man.
Bo Thompson, who could get the ball to start game one Monday on the hill for Man, is 8-1 on the season with 2.33 ERA. Thompson has allowed 29 runs, 17 earned, on 60 hits in 51 innings pitched while striking out 58 and walking 16 this season.
Other options for Crosby include Braxton Messer, who is 4-3 with a 3.14 ERA. Messer has allowed 22 runs, 16 earned, on 33 hits in 35 2/3 innings and has struck out 57 and walked 27. In the postseason, Messer has been lights out posting a 2-0 record in two relief appearances. He has a 1.91 ERA and has allowed three runs on seven hits and struck out 16 in 11 innings in the postseason.
Vance is 3-0 this season with Blankenship sporting a 2-2 record and Blevins 1-3 with a save this season for the Hillbillies.
“The season has been eye opening for sure,” Crosby said. “A lot of unexpected play, guys stepping up that I didn’t expect and guys still trying to find their way that I expected to be dominant.”