GLENVILLE, W.Va. - On paper, it looks like a mismatch - 20-2 St. Marys vs. 6-14 Gilmer County in the Class A Region I softball semifinal matchup at 5 p.m. today at the Sue Morris Sports Complex in Glenville.
But in a one-game, winner advances and loser goes home format, records don't mean a thing. Just ask the two head coaches in Thursday's contest - St. Marys' John Mike Nichols and Gilmer's Bill Shahan.
''In this, there's no room for error,'' said Nichols ''One bad game now and the season's done. All you've worked all season for is down the drain.''
Nichols' Blue Devils and Shahan's Titans were scheduled to meet this season, but were rained out. ''Sure, it's easier if you've played them already when you get to this point in the season,'' admits Nichols. ''But Gilmer deserves to be there; they won the games they had to win to get there.''
Nichols said his squad right now is ''laser-focused on the task at hand and that's getting past Gilmer and moving on.''
Last year, St. Marys made it all the way to the state tournament for the first time ever. This year, when Nichols passed out sheets on the first day of practice, getting back to Jackson Park in Vienna again for the state tourney was a listed goal. But one that he duly noted ''takes a season-long commitment from everyone on the team'' Two more wins though and that commitment turns to reality again.
At the beginning of season, Shahan thought his team ''could be where we are right now. I knew we had some pretty good talent - it was just a matter of us coming together and playing like I knew we were capable of.''
Shahan told his girls he ''didn't worry about the regular season. Sure, you want to win every game, but it's in the tournament when things really count. Whether you're something and 0 or 0 and 32, everybody has a chance in the tournament. Now though, it's the teams that play error-free who are the ones who are going to keep moving on - to the regional finals and then to the state.''
Shahan thinks too the home field advantage will help the Titans come Thursday. ''People in the community are really excited about the game,'' he said. ''I've had a lot of people say they are planning on being there to root us on. That'll be a real boost for these girls - to see a lot of familiar faces there supporting their efforts.''