NEW MARTINSVILLE - It's hard enough to beat Magnolia when Kyle Elliott is on the hill. But when you spot him a five-run lead in the first inning it's virtually impossible.
That's exactly what St. Marys did Wednesday evening in their West Virginia Class A Region One championship game at the George Mullett Baseball Complex.
The Blue Eagles used the big inning as a springboard to a 12-1, five-inning victory against the Blue Devils earning Dave Cisar and his crew another trip to Charleston.
Magnolia’s Kyle Elliott delivers a pitch during Wednesday’s game against St. Marys in New Martinsville.
''Oh heck, I don't know ... six, seven or eight,'' Cisar said smiling when asked how many state trips he's made during his 40-year head coaching career.
One thing Cisar does know is the pleasure he's getting out of this magical campaign.
''If someone had told me at the start of the season that we'd win 30 games I would've told them they were nuts,'' he said.
The Blue Eagles will indeed carry a 30-4 mark into their state semifinal contest at 10 a.m. next Friday against the winner of today's Region 2 championship game pitting East Hardy against Clarksburg Notre Dame.
''We played very, very well and very, very emotional, which we talked about,'' Cisar said. ''You need to do that, especially when you play home.''
New Martinsville hasn't been kind to St. Marys, according to Blue Devils coach Ed Wilson, who watched his team finish 27-7.
''You can't spot someone five runs in the first, especially against Magnolia,'' Wilson said. ''If they were clubbing the ball all over the place, that's one thing. But when you beat yourself, that's not good.
''Every time we come up here we can't play ball for some reason.''
The opening inning was certainly a nightmare for St. Marys. The Blue Eagles sent nine batters to the plate, starting pitcher Michael Stout hit three batters and walked one and the Blue Devils committed two errors.
Magnolia had only one hit in the inning, but it was a big one. Derrick Blain singled and, with the help of an error in the outfield, three scored.
''I'm real happy with my freshman getting a two-run hit and getting a suicide squeeze down,'' Cisar said of Blain. ''He did well not knowing if he was going to play.''
Stout shut down the Blue Eagles in order in the second inning. In the third, however, Magnolia cranked up the bats again.
Zach Willhoite started the inning with a single to left. After Tanner Hanna walked, Chase Miller singled to score Willhoite making the score 6-0.
Later with one out and Blain batting, Hanna and Miller moved to third and second, respectively, on a passed ball. Blain then laid down the aforementioned squeeze to plate two more runs.
Drew Keller became the fourth hit batsman of the game, resulting in Stout being pulled in favor of Tyler Davis. Two batters later, Chandler Sapp belted a double that scored Miller and Blain making the score 9-0.
Everything seemed to be working for Magnolia from a fundamental standpoint.
''We had a really good practice Tuesday,'' Cisar said. ''We had a really good, aggressive batting practice and we hustled, worked on running the bases a lot and worked on the squeeze a lot.''
They also worked on the hit-and-run. And it came into play during a three-run fourth that cemented the game.
Elliott twirled a three-hitter, striking out seven and walking three. St. Marys loaded the bases in the fourth, but only plated a run. Robbie Harper laced an RBI double.
''He threw well and he threw hard,'' Cisar said. ''It was the first time he'd thrown in a couple of weeks.
''His arm was a bit gimpy earlier this week. That's why we didn't play him against (Wheeling) Central.''
Cisar credited his pitching staff as one of the keys to his club's success.
''I felt we had a heck of a chance to have a good team because we had three senior pitchers and two junior pitchers in (Jake) Starkey and Willhoite. And then Miller came in as a freshman.
''We've gotten better as a team. And as we've gotten better, we've gotten more confident.''