GLEN DALE - Josh McKown pitched a complete-game four-hitter and contributed offensively with a key home run in the second inning while helping John Marshall advance within a step of a state tournament berth Tuesday at Monarch Field.
After surrendering two runs in the top of the first, the senior right-hander put six straight goose eggs on the scoreboard and overcame seven walks with 12 strikeouts as Coach Bob Mongtomery's Monarchs slipped past upstart University 3-2 in their West Virginia Class AAA Region One semifinal nail-bitter.
Shortstop Jake Lucas provided the game-winning run in the fourth inning when his single to left field brought home first baseman Tyler West, who singled to start the rally.
PHOTO BY SHAWN RINE
John Marshall's Josh McKown (42) is greeted at the plate by his teammates after hitting a home run Tuesday against University.
PHOTO BY SHAWN RINE
John Marshall's Chris Minder gets a lead off first base Tuesday against University.
The victory, John Marshall's 22nd of the season against 15 defeats, earned the Marshall County club a spot in Thursday's regional final in Fairmont against No. 1 ranked Fairmont Senior, which dispatched rival East Fairmont.
University, meanwhile, ended at 15-17 although the Hawks gave a good account of themselves late in the year. Coach Donavan Riggleman's club won nine of its last 11 regular-season games before knocking off city rival Morgantown in the sectional tournament.
''Give McKown credit,'' Riggleman said. ''He threw a heckuva ball game. We had a plan coming in to make him throw pitches but when we got some opportunities to score he shut us down. They made some good defensive plays too.''
Montgomery, thrilled that the Monarchs are back in a regional final, credited John Marshall's coming together as team afer starting a season at 1-6.
''We learned as the season when on,'' he pointed out. ''We wear 'Team' on our backs and we have become a pretty good team.''
The only frustrating part of the day for Montgomery was the Monarchs' struggles with men in scoring position as they stranded 10 runners.
''We had runners on second and third (fifth inning) and didn't score there. (Aaron) Fonner came real close to a home run but they also made some nice defensive plays against us.''
With one run in and two mates on base in the opening inning, Fonner blasted a pitch down the left-field line that just went foul, denying John Marshall's leading home run hitter a three-run blast that might have broken the game open early. Two circus catches, one by Hawks left fielder Jimmy Montague in the second inning and the other by Dakota Bodkin during the sixth, were rally killing outs.
The Monarchs also flashed some impressive leather in the field as third baseman Johnny Cochran had at two nice plays and Evan Magers, who took over in left field late in the game, had what might have been a game-saving catch during the top of the seventh.
University's two runs in the opening inning were helped by a one-out walk to Billy Kinney and an error on a pickoff attempt at first base that allowed him to get into second. Zac Hart then followed with a single to left. Hart took second as Cochran rushed in from third base to throw out Travis Renner and deny the University first baseman's bid for an infield hit. However, designated hitter Lucas Trovato picked up an RBI when his bouncer toward short took a huge hop over the head of Lucas for a single.
The Hawks got just two more base knocks and both were also singles. Montague singled in the second inning and Kinney picked up a base hit with one-out in the seventh. Hart followed Kinney to the plate and ripped one to left field that Magers went back on, reached up and denied what could have been a game-tying, extra-base blow. McKown then ended the game by hustling over to first to take a throw from West after he had gloved Renner's infield bouncer.
McKown struck out the side in second and third innings but allowed walks in both frames. He also picked up a pair of Ks in the fifth and sixth.
John Marshall got on the board in the bottom of the first after University starter Jordan Webster had retired the first two batters. The hustling Todd Schmidt beat out a slow roller to second base for an infield hit, stole second and scored as Zach Winland dropped a single into right field.
McKown tied the score at 2-2 in the second inning with his leadoff home run on a blast over the BB&T sign in left field.
The score remained tied until the bottom of the fourth. West started the rally with a leadoff single on a ground ball up the middle that was knocked down by Hawks shortstop Scott McLaughlin. Shane Wellman walked and one-out later, Lucas roped his single in front of Montague from what proved to be the game-winner..
McKown, known for his high-pitch counts this season, threw 134 pitches in his route-going effort.
''That's how Josh operates,'' Montgomery said. ''He will go to a lot a full counts, walks some but strikes out a lot. The six zeroes he threw after the first inning were pretty impressive.''