WEIRTON - There are a lot of reasons why a team wins a state championship.
Luck is involved, as is senior leadership, players who accept their roles, some right moves from the coach that work out and a little self-fulfilled retribution to make up for the way the previous year ended.
"Not making it out of sectionals last year was not a good feeling," said Madonna senior Logan Linder.
Blue Dons baseball coach Jeff Baire chose sophomore Luca Fuscardo to pitch the West Virginia Class A state championship game last Sunday against East Hardy.
As Fuscardo took the bump at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, senior Connor Mogan took his position at first base.
"That way, we only had to switch two guys from the semifinal game - Luca and Logan," Baire said of Fuscardo and the senior Linder, who pitched a complete-game 6-1 win over Charleston Catholic in the semifinals. "The rest of our lineup stayed the same and that lineup had been working well for us as of late.
"Everybody's going to judge in that situation and wonder why would you throw Mogan, or why would you throw Luca in that situation. We chose to go with the guy who was a little bit more finesse, who was able to throw to spots a little bit more, and he did great through five and two-thirds innings.
"Tory (Fuscardo) comes in and does a great job and that change of pace, that extra four-to-five miles per hour, was just enough to have the bats slow for Connor when he came in and finished out the seventh and eighth innings.
"Connor was locked in when he came in and that says something about the seniors. They wanted this game badly."
Sophomore Will Bowser hit a one-out bases-loaded single in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Blue Dons their second state championship in three years with a 5-4 victory.
"I was looking for anything I could get to the outfield," said Bowser.
Fuscardo was cruising along with a 4-1 lead until East Hardy scored three times in the top of the sixth inning to tie the score.
Yet, Madonna's dugout never wavered.
"We had problems with that in the middle of the year," said Baire. "When we were having problems defensively and other teams would make plays and do the things that they needed to do to put us behind and put us on the defense, it was easy for us at that point to put our heads down.
"And, we beat them up really hard during the middle of the season. During that stretch where we weren't a very good ball team, we beat them up hard over that. We talked to them a lot about mental toughness, about seeing these situations in games, especially as you progress in the playoffs.
"And, if you really want to consider yourself an elite team, you have to be able to take somebody's best punch and not call it a night, but get back up off the deck and say, 'OK, now, here's ours.'"
Tory Fuscardo, who got out of the sixth inning with a strikeout, gave up a leadoff single in the top of the seventh and Baire brought in the left-handed Mogan to take the mound.
He promptly struck out the next three batters and, after Tyler Mongold singled to start the eighth, Mogan then sat down the next three with Ks on nine pitches.
"That's how a senior steps into a big game and steps up," Daniel Pietranton said of Mogan.
"All the guys behind me make every play," said Mogan. "I give all the credit to them. All I had to do was go in there and throw some strikes."
The Blue Dons finished the season winning 10 in a row and 12 of their last 13.
"This is just a great way to end a career," said Battista, who left Madonna with four state titles.