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Prep baseball: Craffey guiding stepson Bowen at Valley

SMITHERS, W.Va. -- Buried inside the run down, blue-painted brick-and-mortar dugouts of Valley High School's baseball field emerges the terse voice of Coach Joe Craffey.

The former Valley player who has coached the Greyhounds to the last two State Tournaments was barking commands to pitcher, and his stepson, Druw Bowen.

Bowen was dragging his foot in the dirt of the mound during his delivery leading to an array of balls - in the dirt, high, outside and inside.

"I tell myself, you still have to remember, he's a freshman," Craffey said after Bowen picked up his second win of the season and homered in Valley's 13-3 five-inning victory over Man (0-6). "It's hard for me sometimes."

This wasn't a perfect outing for Bowen or the Greyhounds (8-2), despite their taking the field less than an hour after getting off the bus from a trip to Beckley, where they defeated Liberty (Raleigh) 12-11 in eight innings.

Still, Valley had 11 hits and owned a 10-0 lead before Man - which was no hit by Chapmanville on Wednesday - scored its first run. One of Valley's hits was a solo homer by George Washington transfer Raeshawn Breckenridge, who left Valley to attend GW for one year before returning.

Cody Winter, the No. 3 batter, was 4-for-4 with a double and three RBI as well.

Bowen got into the act at the plate when he hit a three-run homer over the long-distance left-field fence at the oddly configured Valley diamond. It was his first varsity home run and gave Valley a 6-0 lead.

However, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Bowen, a cousin of St. Albans' Adam Bowen, wasn't cruising on the mound even if his numbers - nine strikeouts and three walks - might indicate otherwise.

After striking out the first two batters of the game and getting out the side in order in the first, he gave up a single to Cayce Mullins to start the second - one of three hits by Mullins. Bowen then hit John Thomas Keffer and walked the No. 7 batter to load the bases.

Craffey, who tries to be equal parts critical and congratulatory to his stepson, makes sure these mistakes are correctly almost immediately.

"I think, when he's on the mound, I am a little bit harder on him," Craffey said. "Attacking the strike zone, getting ahead. Especially when you're in a comfortable game. What I don't want him to do is get in a habit of pitching according to the score of the game."

Shortly after a visit to the mound Bowen struck out the next two batters on a combined six pitches.

"I do get tired of (being yelled at) sometimes," said Bowen, who has 23 strikeouts in 11 innings this season. "I feel like he's harder on me sometimes, but it really doesn't bother me any, because he wants me to do my best."

This year, Bowen will get his first crack at a State Tournament berth, something he's had to watch - albeit from inside the Power Park dugout - the last two seasons.

It's a process for father and son that began roughly 12 years ago when Joe and Druw's mother Christy began dating.

This is Craffey's 12th season coaching the Greyhounds, so the connection between Druw Bowen and his opportunity to play for Valley was never going to be in question.

At least in the eyes of some.

"He understands that I'm in a position to where, if he plays, comments could be made that, 'The only reason you're playing is because you're the coach's son,' " Craffey said. "I've always told him, first thing you have to stay humble. Regardless of the success you have, you stay humble.

"Secondly, you have to outwork everyone else. When there's six inches of snow on the ground and he's in the cage hitting, or taking pitching lessons ... you do what you're supposed to do and take care of yourself and good things will happen."

So far, so good.

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at richstevens@dailymail.com or 304-348-4837.


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