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Jefferson returns home to Charleston

June 04, 2003|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

The Jefferson Cougars' baseball team is going to its second home.

They'll be in Charleston tonight for the West Virginia Class AAA championships, bumping heads with Cabell Midland in a semifinal scheduled for 7 p.m.

Beckley meets Fairmont in the opener at 4:30, with the winners to return Friday at 8 in the championship.

The second home?

Jefferson - formed in 1972 - is making its 18th appearance in the state baseball tournament and its seventh consecutive trip.

Under John Lowery, the only baseball coach the Cougars have had, Jefferson has returned home with seven championships and four runner-up trophies.

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With a 30-8 record, Jefferson finished the regular season ranked fourth in the state. Cabell Midland was ranked second.

"I understand they are pretty deep with five or six pitchers," Lowery said. "They have a group of kids which ... were in the Little League World Series together, so they obviously have some talent."

Cabell Midland came through a region which included Nitro and defending champion Hurricane.

"People I have talked to have the utmost respect for them," Lowery said.

Jefferson, with only two returning starters to begin the season, may not have been a projected state participant, but those that have manned all 10 positions have excelled.

Justin Dailey is the only starter from last year, when he was at third. He's now the centerfielder, bats .370 and leads the team in hits with 47.

Two others, Juwaan Holmes and Steve Kozak, were part-time starters late last year. Kozak leads the team in batting at .418 and is next in line with 46 hits, including a team-high 12 doubles, three home runs and 38 RBI.

Holmes, however, will draw one of his biggest assignments as a senior when he toes the rubber tonight.

The righty bears a 10-2 record with a 1.65 earned run average.

"On the mental side he is a competitive kid that doesn't let the circumstances get to him," Lowery said. "His fastball and curve are pretty much the same in speed, but he gets batters to swing through."

Senior Terry Mumaw (7-2, 3.50 ERA) will be ready to go and so will Kozak (2-0, 3.41) should they be needed.

"We should be ready, having not played since last Wednesday," Lowery said. "As long as the kids are in the right frame of mind I think we have a chance to be real competitive.

Lowery, who possesses an 876-231-3 career record, said the Cougars have come together in the latter stages of the season.

"Early in the year we were inconsistent defensively," he said. "We've minimized errors and if you don't make those and don't walk people, they can't score."

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