WEIRTON - As the West Virginia Region One, Section One title game between Bishop Donahue and Wheeling Central headed into the seventh inning, a feeling of hope came about Bishops coach Bob Kleeh.
''The last two times we played them, take out last Thursday, but the last two regular season games we had scored runs in the seventh inning,'' he said. ''We came back and scored six runs up at their place and won that one 7-5. Then we put five runs up in the seventh inning down at our place but lost that one 7-6. So that gave me a little bit of hope.''
After Andrew Cunningham reached on an error with no outs, the rest of the Donahue dug out began to have that same feeling.
Wheeling Central’s C.J. Burch takes off toward first after hitting into a fielder’s choice.
The Maroon Knights, however, were not about to let their 4-3 lead slip away.
Central pitcher Nick Naumann then struck out his eighth batter and two ground outs later, the Knights were celebrating a sectional championship victory.
''It was exactly what I thought this game would be like,'' Central coach Jimbo Wodusky said. ''You got (Hunter) Kaschke pitching for them, who you know is going to be a horse, and I got my No. 1 and I know he's going to be a horse, so it was just who can come up with the clutch hit at the right time or who could come up with the mistake.''
''I think we took advantage of their mistakes just enough to get a win.''
The Bishops (15-11) started the scoring early as Donahue took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first off a Kaschke double and a Matt Vucelick hit into left field.
Central (10-19) answered right back in the bottom half of the inning.
After Kaschke walked three straight to load up the bases, Derek Yocke doubled into deep left field to give Jeff Gywnn and Nate Bakaitis enough time to score.
''Yocke has been struggling all year and I just noticed something in batting practice the other day and I told him to try to change it,'' Wodusky said. ''As soon as he did, he started hitting line drives right off the bat and I thought well maybe it's been the problem all year. My fault I didn't see it early.''
Yocke hit the ball so deep that Naumann thought he could make it from first to home, but Bishops catcher Alex Riedel caught the ball just before Naumann slid into home and still held on to it after the two collided to bring the inning to a close.
Donahue retook the lead in the third on a Joey Myers hit that drove in Bryce Jones to make it 3-2.
The Knights, once again, answered back.
After Gywnn reached to start off the inning, Bakaitis hit a grounder right at Kaschke, but the Bishops pitcher hesitated just enough to let Gywnn and Bakaitis advance safely.
Naumann was walked to again load up the bases for Central and the Knights cashed in two on a Brain Campbell hit to take a 4-3 lead.
''They more or less gave us those two,'' Wodusky noted. ''They had an error and we had a clutch hit to take advantage. And that's what I'm talking about. As tough as this section is with Madonna, Bishop and us, you have to take advantage of a mistake every once in a while to be able to win this section and we did.''
Added Kleeh: ''We helped them in the process. We threw the ball around in the third inning. That's no excuse. I've got to have them bettered prepared. That's on me. I'll take that heat because I have to have these kids ready to play and make the play. That loss is on me. I'll take that one.''
The win gives Central another date with Magnolia as the Knights will face the Blue Eagles in a regional semifinal on Monday.
''Oh boy, huh?'' Wodusky jokingly said. ''Like I tell the guys, it's one game at a time now. You can't worry about the past. We took them 12 innings the first time we played them so we can stay on the field with them. I just hope we can heal up by Monday.''