WHEELING - Sometimes you just know something is going to be special.
No one tells you how or why, you just get a gut feeling about it.
For the Wheeling Wildcats baseball team, that moment came in a game against Bellaire on Wheeling Island.
The Wildcats trailed 9-2 in the bottom of the seventh.
''Then we came back,'' Bob 'Herb' Wilson recalled.
Wheeling picked up a couple of runs, and then, with two outs, catcher Mark 'Mags' Maguire hit one out of the park. The Wildcats won, 10-9.
''That ball went sailing,'' Wilson said.
''We just clicked the rest of the year. We only lost one or two more games. We really gelled as a team.''
The Wildcats went on to win the state title in 1974.
Now, 40 years later, the group is reuniting for the first time at Generations on May 24.
''Pretty much everyone is coming back,'' Wilson said. ''We're still trying to track down some guys, but most of them still live in Wheeling.''
The idea came about when Wilson was in town and ran into Dave 'Czeck' Janesco at Market Square.
''A lot of us haven't seen each other in about 40 years,'' Wilson said.
Obviously, much of the conversation will take place recalling memories of that '74 squad.
''The thing I remember most,'' Rod 'Buc' Droginske said, ''is the year prior (1973) was Coach Mike Pockl's last season. He was a legendary coach in Wheeling. Larry Miller was just an assistant on that team.''
''Pockl was the one who helped develop us into players,'' Kim Gruber said. ''He left prior to 1974 to take on an administrative position with Ohio County Schools.''
Miller took over for Pockl in 1974 and according to Tom Wilson, Herb's brother, there was a big difference between the way the two managed the team.
''Coach Pockl was really intense,'' he said. ''Our baseball practice was more like a football practice. Larry was more loose. He made the whole team feel more loose.''
While Miller may have been a little more leniente than Pockl, he was still serious in his own right. But he did have one strange attribute.
''The way he ran was really unusual,'' Droginske said. ''He'd line up in front of us to lead the stretches and the whole team would be behind him intimating how he ran. We would all be doing the frog legs. We would all be laughing because he would be in front of us and had no idea what we were doing.''
Though the team was laughing during warmups, when it came time for the first pitch, everyone was ready.
The Wildcats rolled to victories in 19 of their first 21 games.
''There were some games I don't know how we won,'' Herb Wilson said. ''One of our things was, even when we were behind, we thought we could win. We always kept competing. Coach Miller kept us going.''
There was one team the Wildcats couldn't get past. Triadelphia. Wheeling went 0-3 against its Ohio County rival.
''Triadelphia was good,'' Droginske said. ''They had a real nice pitcher in Jim Keller. He threw the fast ball. It was one of those ones where you could hear it, but you couldn't see it.''
After the Wildcats defeated John Marshall in the sectional round, they had a date with Dave Cisar's Magnolia Blue Eagles in the regional tournament at West Liberty State College.
On the other side of the bracket, Triadelphia was playing Oak Glen.
It seemed inevitable a fourth game between Wheeling and Triadelphia was on the horizon.
Then, the Golden Bears pulled off the unthinkable. Not only did they hand Triadelphia its only loss of the season, the Oak Glen pitcher threw a no-hitter in a 1-0 victory.
''If Triadelphia wins that game,'' Tom Wilson said, ''it's probably a different story for us.''
Wheeling then defeated Oak Glen to claim the regional championship and clinched its first state tournament berth since 1971.
After posting a victory against Bluefield in the first round, Wheeling edged out Fairmont in the semifinals when the Wildcats scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.
The next day, Randy 'Mouse' Mallery pitched the Wildcats past Huntington East to claim the state title.
''After we won the championship, our Athletic Director, Sam Andy, took us to some restaurant to celebrate,'' Droginske said. ''While we were there, (assistant) Coach Peyton (Quail) got up and started singing Mercedes Benz by Janis Joplin. Everyone went nuts. He doesn't know this yet, but we're making him sing it at the anniversary.''
Two years after the Wildcats claimed their crown, Wheeling High School consolidated with Warwood and Triadelphia to form Wheeling Park.
The 1974 season was the last state baseball title in school history.
''A lot of it was because we were friends for a long time,'' Herb Wilson said of the team's chemistry. ''We would hang out off the field, try to pick up girls in the park, you know, just do what high school kids do.
''We weren't the most talented, but we got the job done when we had to.''
Tony Viola can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org