RAVENSWOOD - For the first time in 18 years and just the fifth time in school history, the Ravenswood Red Devil baseball team is headed to the West Virginia State Baseball Tournament. The Devils (22-9) are seeded No. 1 in the Class A field of four and takes on the Tygarts Valley Bulldogs (19-8) today (Thursday) in the semifinals at 4:30 p.m. at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston in the first game of the 2017 state tournament.
The other Class A semifinal is an all-Catholic affair with No. 2 seeded Wheeling Central Catholic (27-6) tangling with No. 3 seeded Charleston Catholic (26-7), which will commence 50 minutes following the conclusion of the Devils-Bulldogs showdown.
The semifinals winner will square off at 10 a.m. Saturday at Power Park in the 2017 West Virginia State Class A Baseball Championship Game.
“The last time a Ravenswood team was in the state tournament was in 1999,” said Red Devil Head Coach Wes Swain, who was an assistant coach along with Dave Hood and Dan McNeely to then-head coach Doug Parrish for the Ravenswood’s only state (AA) baseball championship team. “I told them this doesn’t happen very often so they need to enjoy it and play their best down there. It’s special.”
Swain has been Red Devil head coach for five years with assistant Dave Sullivan and assistants Aaron Bennett and Jason Anglin, rebuilding the program to now reach the pinnacle—the state tournament for the first time in 18 years (1999). The Red Devils are young with just four seniors dotting the roster.
Ravenswood enters the 2017 state tournament with a bevy of talented players who have been resilient throughout the regular season, battling back to win games on several occasions. Swain says the results are a testament to his squad’s dedication, versatility and chemistry, and never give in attitude. Offseason weight training has also played a key role.
The 2017 Red Devils are a mixture of speed, power and fundamental strength with solid hitting throughout the lineup and pinch runners who have been very good from season’s start to finish.
Several players are capable of going yard in any at-bat led by junior lefty Chase Swain (.494 batting average with six homers, 45 RBIs) and senior Nathan Curtis (.413 with two homers, 35 RBIs and 32 runs scored). Senior Brennan Barr (.316 with two homers, 17 RBIs), and juniors Blake Bennett (.367 with two homers, 27 RBIs and 46 runs scored) and Stephen Dawson (.231 with a homer, nine RBIs and 14 runs scored) have also shown an ability to launch the long ball. Sophomore Ciah Kennedy hits at a .357 clip with 14 RBIs and 27 runs scored; Lakin Tucker, .327 with 27 RBIs and 24 runs scored; and Nic Taylor, .354 with 22 RBIs and 44 runs scored. Jake Greene has hit .273 with two homers, 13 RBIs and eight runs scored.
Taylor and Bennett are lethal on the base paths, and pinch runners like Sam Sturm and Jake Greene have excelled as role players.
Senior Nathan Curtis is the team’s ace on the mound, but the Devils have a stable of hurlers that includes standouts Chase Swain, Nic Taylor, Lakin Tucker, Ethan Mahan and Stephen Dawson. Curtis is 7-1 with a 1.881 ERA, 74 strikeouts, 14 walks and 28 hits over 44.1 innings. Swain is 5-0 with a 1.235 ERA, 85 strikeouts, 20 walks and 26 hits over 51 innings. Taylor is 4-5 with a 1.878 ERA, 35 strikeouts, 23 walks and 27 hits over 41 innings. Tucker is 4-3 with a 3.294 ERA, 38 strikeouts, 16 walks and 30 hits over 34 innings.
Defensively, Ravenswood is solid with sophomore Ciah Kennedy at first base, Bennett at second, Swain at shortstop, Curtis at third base, Taylor and Tucker versatile in the infield or outfield, Andrew Anglin at catcher and an outfield that has featured Tucker, Dawson and Brennan Barr with Taylor and Greene sprinkled in.
In getting to the state tournament quartet, Ravenswood overwhelmed two-time defending state champion Wahama in the sectional by lopsided mercy-rule outcomes, 13-0 and 10-0. They then dominated Buffalo in two of the three regional series games, 13-3 and 5-1.