Madonna stays alive

WHEELING – The Bee Gees sang about it about in the 1970s and Weirton Madonna’s baseball team lived it Thursday afternoon, a little thing called “Staying Alive”.

Needing a victory to keep its 2014 baseball season alive, Coach Tim Provenzano’s Blue Dons used a fine pitching performance from Michael Rogers and little bit of fifth inning luck to live for at least one more day.

Rogers fired a three-hitter, fanning eight and walking two, and Madonna scored its only two runs on an error in the fifth inning, as the Blue Dons rallied for a 2-1 victory against Bishop Donahue in a West Virginia Class A Region One, Section One contest at the J.B. Chamber’s I-470 Sports Complex.

Thursday’s result sets up a winner-take-all contest this afternoon at 6 p.m. between Provenzano’s Blue Dons (22-5) and Coach Bob Kleeh’s Bishops (12-11) back at the I-470 field with the winner advancing to next week’s regional tournament.

“Advance and play,” Provenzano said. “We have played four games in a week and I think that works a little bit in our favor. But we get to come back and play again (Friday).”

Trailing 1-0 going to the bottom of the fifth and with their 7-8-9 hitters due up, Madonna put together a little bit of an unconventional inning that led to what proved to be the two runs they needed.

Nick Mazur doubled down the left field line with one out before Anthony Antinone reached on a fielder’s choice to put runners at first and second.

Both runners moved up on Caleb Baire’s fielder’s choice and winning pitcher Michael Rogers worked a free pass on a 3-2 count to load the bases. It was only the second batter hard-luck loser Hunter Kaschke had even gone to two balls on.

On a 1-2 pitch, Luca Fuscardo sent a fly ball high into the infield sky that Kaschke seemed to be settling under, however, while falling backwards the ball glanced off his glove with two runners crossing the plate for a 2-1 Blue Dons’ lead.

“That ball was hit as high as the hills,” Kleeh said. “But that’s baseball, we make that catch and chances are we are looking at a 1-0 lead going to the bottom of the seventh.

“It was a fly ball that Hunter (Kaschke) thought he could make the catch, but he actually should have been called with an infielder making the play. It’s just the way it played out.”

But the Bishops did not go easy in the seventh. After Rogers set down the first two hitters, designated hitter Austin Cunningham worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch. Provenzano then brought in Will Bowser to try and get the final out.

Bowser’s first pitch hit Jesse Padlow in the head and after a double-steal Donahue had runners at second and third. Bowser was able to bear down and get a four-pitch strikeout to end the contest.

“Michael did a great job on the mound and can really spot the ball,” Provenzano said. “He has three great pitches and can get them all over for strikes.

“He is also a senior and I keep talking about the senior leadership on this team and what it means. We have senior leadership all over the place and it seems like they are always stepping up.

“We are pressing a little at the plate, and I think that has something to do with the atmosphere here. The kids just need to go up, see the ball and hit the ball. They are very mentally tough, but when they do start hitting it is going to be an explosion.”

The Bishops were able to manufacture a run to get things started in the first. Bryce Jones walked with one out and advanced to second on Kaschke’s fielder’s choice.

Jones stole third seven pitches into Alex Riedel’s at-bat and raced home on a wild pitch just two tosses later for the game’s initial run.

Madonna did put runners in scoring position in the second and fourth frames, however, Kaschke managed to get the final out of each inning via the strikeout to keep the Blue Dons off the board.

“This was a game with two great pitching performances and two teams that couldn’t hit the ball,” Kleeh said. “I couldn’t ask for much more than Hunter Kaschke gave us on the mound and their kid did a real nice job also.

“We let them breathe another night so now we will show back up here (Friday) and see what happens. It’s do or die time now and one of these teams are going to advance on.”