PARKERSBURG - A 22-12 regular season didn't measure up to last year. But still the Parkersburg Post 15 coaching staff is of the opinion that the American Legion baseball team has as good a chance as any of the three teams in this week's Area 3 double-elimination tournament to determine its representative in the state Legion tournament.
Post 15, the No. 2 seed for Area 3, hosts third-seeded Beckley Post 32 at 6 p.m. today at Bennett Stump Field in Parkersburg City Park. A Post 15 win means a trip to Sissonville High School for a 6 p.m. game Thursday versus Area 3 top seed South Charleston Post 94 in the second round.
"We went into this season with high expectations," said Post 15 assistant coach Kyle Fleak. "It definitely though hasn't been like last year when we went 35-10. But we have a good shot (to get to the state), we really do. And that's because this team comes to play every day. I think we have the talent to do it - if they show up and play like I know they can."
Post 15 split with Beckley during the regular season. ''Beckley actually matches up with us pretty well," said Fleak. "They have some decent pitching and guys who can hit the ball, but I think we can beat them.
"South Charleston though, they're good every year. But we did win a game over them down there this year. They got some guys that throw the ball pretty hard. All their guys hit and they're fundamentally sound."
So Fleak thinks this year's Area 3 tournament is "going to be very interesting, because I think any of the three of us have the potential to come out this time around."
Post 15 head coach Steve Fleak too thinks Area 3 ''is anybody's tournament. South Charleston's still in the driver's seat, but us and Beckley are pretty even and we're both aiming for South Charleston."
Steve Fleak thinks this year's Post 15 squad lacks "the fire and determination like we had last year. Of course, every team is different as you lose some kids, keep others and get some new ones from one year to the next. We've bounced back a little bit this year. However, we're not back to where we should be, but we do have good talent."
Winning the first game in any tournament "is very important," said Steve Fleak. "And when Beckley wants to play ball, they're tough, although I think we have better pitching and better overall hitting."
Parkersburg's other assistant coach this season is Kyle Haverty, who finished his Post 15 playing days last year.
Haverty noted that the 2013 team "just hasn't seemed to put everything together at one time. But it's been a pretty good season. We've had some ups and downs, but I've seen the boys grow a lot since the very first game, not as just players but as people and as teammates. They've really come together."
Haverty, who serves as Post 15's pitching coach, said that "more than likely, we'll start Jacob Braniff" on the mound today with his twin bother Jordan, both Glenville State-bound for baseball, behind the plate "with a lefty in relief," if needed.
Then Haverty sees Jonathon Murphy hurling versus South Charleston Thursday, "and after that, it could be anybody."
Veteran Post 15 manager Jim Goodwin, who notched his 500th Legion baseball coaching victory this season, has "seen all the (legion) teams in the state of West Virginia play this year and except maybe for South Charleston who's a dominator, we can play with anybody."