CHARLESTON - For the second time in three years the Madonna baseball team has a chance to win the West Virginia Class A state championship.
That opportunity came in the form of a 6-1 victory over nemesis Charleston Catholic Saturday night at Appalachian Power Park.
The Blue Dons tee it up at approximately 6:30 p.m. tonight on the same field against East Hardy, a 10-0 winner over Valley-Fayette.
Photo contributed by Action?Images
DEALING — Madonna pitcher Logan Linder delivers a pitch during the Blue Dons’ 6-1 West Virginia Class A semifinal win over Charleston Catholic Saturday at Appalachian Power Park.
This win was personal for Madonna senior Nick Battista.
"We really wanted this game," he said. "They ended my season in golf and in basketball. This was a little redemption."
"It sure feels good to finally beat them," said Blue Dons senior Connor Mogan. "Defensively we played well. Nick was really solid up the middle so was Kaleb (Baire), and Ross (Comis) made every play that came to him at third.
"Everyone in the outfield also made their plays. We played well tonight."
That redemption started early as Madonna scored twice in the bottom of the first inning.
Comis was hit by a pitch and Logan Linder promptly doubled to the right field wall. Mogan reached on a catcher's interference and back-to-back walks to Chris Duerr and Nick Ossman plated the two runs.
Although the Blue Dons left the bases loaded, the start was exactly what the doctor and head coach Jeff Baire ordered.
"Early runs never are important, they never make a team relax," Baire said with a smile and with tongue firmly in cheek. "That was huge and we did it with only one hit. It was us being patient enough to take pitches until we got something that we could hit and it ended up working out very well for us."
"Those runs made me comfortable," said Linder, the starting and winning pitcher. "I knew I could throw strikes and get ahead. I didn't have to worry about them scoring one run."
"Those two runs took a big weight off our shoulders," said Madonna catcher Chris Duerr. "I know it took a big weight off my shoulders behind the plate. I know it had to relax everyone else."
"Those two runs in the first were huge and we just went from there," said Mogan. "It was great to get a nice little lead at the beginning of the game."
Madonna added three in the bottom of the third inning.
Duerr began the frame with a seeing-eye single to center. He stole second and scored on Ossman's double. Will Bowser singled to left and went to second on an error for second and third with one out. Battista flipped a single to right with two outs to score the pair.
"That was one of my biggest hits of the year," said Battista. "I just took the outside pitch to right field. I was looking for that fastball he had been throwing to me and he gave it to me."
"That hit was a lot of help," said Linder. "It helped take a lot of pressure off a lot of people.
"We've been playing great lately. We're not trying to play any better than we are. We're just trying to do what we can do. "
"When the morale is up in the dugout, we make so many less errors," said Duerr, who had a single, RBI and one of three stolen bases. "In the dugout, everyone's up, we're hitting good, we're fielding good. We're loose and just playing good baseball.
"Our emotions are high. We try to keep it up, but try not to go over the top. There's a happy medium in there and I think we finally found it. In the beginning of the season we weren't that way, but we found it toward the end of the season and we've been playing pretty well."
"Everything turned around about a month ago for us," said Mogan. "We've been more relaxed since then. Before then, we were all uptight, little bit nervous for some reason and really not playing good baseball.
"But, we've come through since then and have been playing good ball."
Charleston Catholic scored a run in the top of the fourth, but Madonna added one in the fifth when Will Bowser tripled to dead center with two outs and scored when Daniel Pietranton's grounder was booted.
Linder did the rest.
"Logan pitched a great game," said Baire. "He's our guy. He's pitched here before. This is the third time we've been down here in the past four years and I really think that helped us tonight. It also helped that we had played Charleston Catholic before (a 9-8 win in April). It's different when you come down here and play some team you know or some team you are seeing for the first time.
"The way we have been playing defense lately is a big departure than the way we played defense in that eight, nine-game stretch in the middle of the season. It's becoming more consistent. Our defense has gotten us to where we've been for the past five years.
"It's nice to see us playing defense like that again.
"Nick has been phenomenal at shortstop. Some of the plays he made tonight Our outfield played well. Our infield played well and Logan pitched phenomenally.
"It was a great team win."
And, one more to play.
"We've been having fun lately," said Battista.
Madonna 6, Charleston Catholic 1
Charleston Catholic 000 100 0 - 1 6 4
Madonna 203 010 x - 6 7 3
CHARLESTON CATHOLIC: Hovorka (LP, 3K, 3BB), Hoyer (4, 2K, 1BB) and Cable; McKown S, T; Hovorka S, rbi; Lough S; Hoyer S; Rendinell S.
MADONNA: Linder (WP, 4K, 1BB) an d Duerr; Battista D, S, 2rbi; Linder D; Duerr S, rbi; Ossman D, 2rbi; Bowser S, T.