Ravenswood baseball thought 2017 could be a special season

File photo Ravenswood’s Nathan Curtis delivers a pitch to an awaiting Buffalo batter during the Red Devils’ 5-1 win over the Bison in the Class A, Region IV championship game. Curtis and company take the field in a state semifinal matchup against Tygarts Valley at 4:30 p.m. today inside Appalachian Power Park at Charleston.

RAVENSWOOD — When Ravenswood baseball takes the field against Tygarts Valley at 4:30 p.m. today at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, the occasion marks just the sixth time a Red Devil team participates in the state tournament.

This will be the first time any of the players have played at Power Park.

The Red Devils also are one win away from their first championship game appearance in 18 years.

Head coach Wes Swain knew his Red Devil squad had a shot to make this a special season early in the year.

“Really after the first four or five games we knew we had something special,” said Swain.

“We threw five straight shutouts and then once we started hitting things started to click.”

However, in the back of the team’s collective mind the entire year was a tough sectional tournament featuring Parkersburg Catholic, Williamstown, and two-time defending Class A champion Wahama.

“If we could get out of the section we would have a pretty good shot,” said Swain. “Of course, we didn’t know a whole lot about Buffalo or St. Joe.”

The Little Kanawha Conference member compiled a 17-6 regular-season record, including an eight-game winning streak to start the year.

They then ran through the Region IV, Section 1 tournament outscoring teams, 34-1, including two shutouts of Wahama 13-0 and 10-0.

Buffalo presented a slight road bump and pushed the Red Devils to three games in the regional final before Ravenswood emerged victorious 5-1 Saturday and earned the Region IV trophy.

“Coach Tribble does a good job of getting them better throughout the year and that is exactly what happened,” said Swain.

Pitching and defense tower as the pillars the Red Devils built their success on this season. The hurlers’ success came as a surprise to the team’s leader.

“Our pitching staff has been fabulous,” said Swain. “We have thrown eight or nine shutouts this year and we look for these guys to continue doing that. The pitch count rule worked in our favor this year and we were successful going with a four-man rotation. They threw strikes and kept us in games. We also kept kids healthy.”

Ravenswood only saw their semifinal opponent play once this season, earlier this week against Bridgeport.

“They are a gritty, solid team,” said Swain. “They are really scrappy and play with a lot of heart. They don’t make a whole lot of mistakes and we have got to put ourselves in a situation where we can put some pressure on them.

Swain is undecided on whether Nathan Curtis or Chase Swain will take the mound against Tygarts Valley. Neither choice would be wrong as both young men have enjoyed success on the mound in 2017.

Curtis, a senior, pitched to a 2.22 earned run average, won five games, and struck out 51 batters in 34 2/3 innings pitched. Meanwhile, the junior Swain punched out 74 opponents in 44 2/3 innings pitched and compiled a 1.10 ERA with seven victories.

“We have a day to play with on Friday and both kids could come back and throw Saturday if they stay under their pitch count,” said Swain.

The two hurlers lead the Red Devils in the batter’s box as well. Swain led the team with a .500 batting average, jacked five home runs, drove in 37 runs and legged out nine doubles. Curtis hit .446, with two bombs, 31 RBIs and eight doubles.

Junior Blake Bennett hit at a .398 clip, added a pair of round trippers, drove in 26 teammates, and had 11 doubles.

All told six of Ravenswood’s nine in the lineup own a batting average above .350 and extra-base pop trickles throughout the lineup. Five Red Devils placed five or more doubles in the outfield grass.

The only thing left to do now is play the game.

“I told the kids there is nothing to explain what the feeling is like and no way to prepare them for what they are going to feel when they head out on the field,” said Swain.