For years, McDowell and Wyoming County high school baseball has been among the Mountain State's finest. Recognizing this fact, Bluefield State College baseball coach Geoff Hunter is building his team on the foundation of this concentration of talent in the southern West Virginia coal fields. When the 1997-98 baseball roster was finalized, 11 McDowell and Wyoming Countians were included, and many are being counted upon for major contributions. "We've enjoyed a wonderful run of talent from McDowell and Wyoming Counties," Hunter noted. "A lot of baseball programs at the high school level in those counties have experienced a continuity of coaching. Coaches like Nick Shaffron (at Mount View), Mike Vallo (at Big Creek), Dave Chapman (at Mullens), and Ron Mayhew (at Pineville) run serious practices and produce student/athletes who are prepared to play." "These kids are very coachable," the BSC coach continued. "They come to us, ready to play at the college level." This season's BSC roster, with comments by Hunter, includes: Jamie Bailey (Mount View): "He's one of the best players in the (West Virginia) conference. He's a .300 hitter from the clean-up position. He led our outfielders in assists last year, and he struck out only once in conference play all year. He's an outstanding performer." Rusty Belcher (Mount View): "He has an outstanding arm, good size, and the potential to play as both a pitcher and an outfielder. He's a young talent whose best baseball is still ahead of him." Billy Carter (Mount View): "He's a very intelligent player. As a pitcher, he knows how to work hitters. He has a very good curve ball and he will improve as he gains strength." John Ford (Mullens): "John is a proven conference player. He hit .315 last year at the top of the order. He's versatile, can run, and gives us a quality hitter from the left side of the plate." Mike Fowler (Big Creek): "Mike is a great defensive player. He will be a fourth year starter this season. He's played virtually every inning of every game at first base. A hard worker with a great attitude, he's another dependable left-handed hitter with good power." Jason Houck (Mullens): "He is one of our two best starting pitchers. Last year, he added three MPH to his fastball. He was fifth in the conference in strikeouts last year as a freshman, and figures to be the heir apparent to "ace of the staff" next season." Damien Jackson: (Mount View): "He was our starting third baseman last year. He is a very disciplined hitter, leading the team in walks last season. Damien has one of the best arms on the team and could see some time as a pitcher this year." Josh King (Big Creek): "Josh is a left-handed pitcher who returns after a one year layoff. He is a finesse pitcher who had a lot of success as a freshman. If he is able to return to his freshman form, he strengthens us tremendously in our starting rotation." Anthony Riffe (Baileysville): "A left-handed power hitter who can play first and DH, Anthony gives us another RBI bat in the middle of the order, and he's got college level experience." Dusty Sparks (Pineville): "Dusty is returning after a year away from the program. He is a very dependable infielder with good mechanics. He's already an accomplished hitter and gives us some versatility in our lineup." Jared Willingham (Mullens): "He has a lot of talent and potential. If he continues to improve as much this year as he did during his freshman season, he will play a lot as a junior and senior. He has power and can be a dependable DH."