Apr. 17—BLUEFIELD — Things aren't anywhere near back to normal. But the return of the Coppinger Invitational baseball tournament getting under way at the customary time of year is probably a sign that things have probably taken a turn for the better.
The Bluefield High School baseball team got off to a good start in Friday night's opening round of the 47th annual Coppinger, upending Summers County 18-2 in four innings.
"You're just happy for the kids because, you know, last year we didn't get to play. It was bad for the seniors. But this year, we're just blessed to be playing," said Bluefield head baseball coach Jimmy Redmond.
Over at Hunnicutt Stadium, Princeton fell 16-6 to Shady Spring in the Tigers' Coppinger return, but showed some signs the youth-laden squad has a competitive spark that can make some good things happen before the spring of 2021 concludes.
"It's a long season. We just have to stick to the course right now," said head coach Austin Southcott, who played on the 2012 Princeton team that won that year's Coppinger Invitational en route to winning the Class AAA state baseball championship.
"As long as we're playing our best ball come the end of May, that's all you can really ask for. It's nice to win a bunch of games in the regular season ... but I've only got two seniors and they have very little varsity experience. We're very young, we're very talented. We've definitely got some ballplayers. It's just going to take some time to put it together."
The Beavers (3-0) are by far the more veteran of the two Mercer County teams at this point in the timeline and proceeded to demonstrate it on Friday night.
Ryker Brown (1-0) became the third Bluefield starting pitcher in as many games to collect a win on his first outing of the season. Over four complete innings, he struck out seven and walked two, giving up two runs off two hits.
Earlier this week, Carson Deeb (1-0) and Kerry Collins (1-0) picked up their first wins of the season against Wyoming East and Shady Spring, respectively.
"We've got three pretty good pitchers. They all could be No. 1. They've got pretty good fastballs. And we've got some guys who've pitched before who can come in," said Redmond, whose team knocked out 15 hits on Friday night.
Brandon Wiley went 2-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored. Brown went 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs, Collins went 2-for-4 with a double and four RBIs, Deeb went 2-for-4, Hunter Harmon went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and Tyler Lambert went 3-for-3 with three RBIs.
"We've got almost 30 game scheduled overall. We're just looking forward to Woodrow," said Redmond, whose team returns to Coppinger action at Bowen Field on Monday in a 6 p.m. game versus the Flying Eagles.
For the Tigers, the overall youth of the squad has been further complicated by Southcott's inaugural season as head coach having been disrupted by the 'Lost Season' of 2020. Princeton is behind more veteran squads like Bluefield — the Tigers' seven errors on Friday bearing testimony to the youth. But there were still optimistic indicators on Friday.
Ethan Nelson had two hits and a sacrifice fly for the Tigers (0-3).
Grant Cochran and Ian Fleming had two hits apiece, Justin Young had a double and Jonathan Higganbotham had a sacrifice fly.
"We hit the ball tonight. We probably had a combined four hits in the two games we played and we had eight hits tonight. So we finally started hitting the ball and moving guys around the bases. We scored six run. That's probably the biggest positive. We showed some fight. We got down 10 going into the top of the fifth, so we were kind of up against the wall with the 10-run rule so we put up three runs to keep us in the ballgame," Southcott said.
"Even when it was looking ugly ... we fought back," he said.
Princeton will play Mercer County rival PikeView in Monday's 6 p.m. Coppinger Game at Hunnicutt Field.