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Prep baseball: Princeton aims to not fade in postseason

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Princeton doesn't want to be thought of as the team that won a state title, then faded into the sunset.

The loss of nine seniors from the 2012 championship team makes that a real possibility, and a real challenge for fourth-year Coach Josh Wilburn.

The Tigers (15-9) begin their best-of-three Class AAA Region 3, Section 2 series at home against Greenbrier East (13-8) on Tuesday. Coach Eric Morgan's Spartans were Region 3 champions in 2011.

"The biggest thing is, and my assistant coach talked about developing a style of play," Wilburn said. "Even looking at the talent pool in Princeton and saying, 'These are the kind of kids we want to keep,' compared to what Princeton used to have and molding a certain program that kids can buy into.

"We definitely have the kids there, the numbers are there. We've had winning seasons for four years, so it's not getting complacent and being happy where we are."

The only regular back for Princeton is Chris Otey, a utility player who is batting .385 with only seven strikeouts in 84 plate appearances. Senior Bo Williams is the team's leading pitcher with a 6-1 record, 1.68 earned run average and 71 strikeouts in 50 innings.

That's a far cry from a team with nine seniors that won its six postseason games by an average score of almost seven runs (8.3-1.5).

"You battle, we lost a lot, we're young. Kids come in with high expectations and we come in with high expectations," Wilburn said. "First sign of adversity, well, you lost nine seniors. We try not to let the kids use that as an excuse.

"The biggest thing this year is making them believe they're still a good baseball team and that it isn't going to be an easy road. Here we are, defending state champions, but we still have to go out and play, nothing is going to be handed to us."

*  *  *

SETH KINKER knows all about Cabell Midland's ups and downs this season, which makes winning the Mountain State Athletic Conference championship that much sweeter.

The Knights begin the Region 4, Section 4 tournament today at Huntington. Kinker is expected to get the start.

"We know we can do it, day in and day out," Kinker said of his team's play in the MSAC tournament. "We're a damn good team. People just don't see it. They don't give us any respect and we have nothing to lose when we come out and play.

"We have a lot of young talent. We're not afraid of anyone."

The Knights, Huntington and Spring Valley will battle in Region 4 with the winner facing the winner of Hurricane and Lincoln County in the sectional semifinal on May 20.

*  *  *

POCA IS making a run that could make history for the Putnam County program.

The Dots opened the season with four losses in their first nine games, but have since won 17-of-20, including victories against Herbert Hoover and Point Pleasant.

Poca (23-7) also has wins over Cabell Midland, Hoover, South Charleston and Chapmanville.

Still, the Dots are four games away from tying the school record for wins.

The 1970 Poca baseball team, coached by 22-year-old Jim Dagostine, finished 27-5 after falling to Shepherdstown in the state championship game.

That team - the first in Poca history to reach the State Tournament - was led by pitcher Gary Phillips, who finished 10-2, as well as position players Gary Craigo and Terry Lett.

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


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