CAMERON - Coach Eric James has done wonders with the Cameron High baseball program during the years, with the only thing missing from his resume being a defining victory for he and his Dragons.
That came Monday in a game the coaches, players and fans deep in the hills of Marshall County will talk about for a long time.
In a contest littered with heroes, it was senior Ryan Hughes who struck the final blow that will be recalled as the exclamation point on a great victory.
Hughes belted a two-out, three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to set off a wild celebration as Cameron battled back from a 4-0 deficit to post a 7-4 victory against nemesis Weirton Madonna on the Dragons diamond.
The victory was the 15th in 19 games for James' squad, however, none had been sweeter than the most recent.
''In my 16 years of coaching this is the biggest win for me in any sport, at any level,'' the emotional James said. ''For years in previews, in the newspaper and on the news I have talked about a moment like this and it finally happened.
''Cameron baseball turned the corner (Monday) and it is a great thing for everyone involved. I believe we have finally come full circle.''
The game itself was intriguing and hard-fought throughout. The home-run friendly field was quieted by the wind and good pitching early as Tory Fuscardo and Hughes battled through three scoreless innings to get things started.
That all changed in the top of the fourth when Ross Comis reached on an infield single, both he and the Blue Dons' second of the game, and scored two pitches later on Logan Linder's towering home run to left field.
Connor Mogan followed with a single and James quickly went to the bullpen for Mitchel French, who recorded two outs. However, Fuscardo aided his own cause by sending a fly ball to deep center that appeared to bounce off Hughes and over the fence for the second two-run bomb of the frame and a 4-0 lead.
That count stood until Cameron finally got its first hit off Fuscardo, and initial runs of the game. Hughes reached on a one-out fielder's choice and went to second when Mark Walker was hit by a pitch. Taylor Neely then loaded the bases with one down when he reached on an error.
Following a strikeout, Jake Walker drilled a 3-1 pitch into the right-center field gap for a three-run double, cutting the deficit to 4-3.
Cameron then forced extra innings as Austin Warsinsky blasted a one-out, 2-1 pitch over the fence in center in the bottom of the seventh to knot the count at 4-4.
Coach Jeff Baire's 11-4 Madonna squad put two on with no one out in the eighth and also had base runners in the ninth, but could not push another run across.
Relief pitcher, and loser Linder, issued a walk to start the bottom of the ninth, but then induced a double-play ball that seemed to take the Blue Dons out of risk.
However, Warsinsky kept it going in the ninth with a two-out base hit as did French, setting the tables for Hughes, who was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts at the time. Hughes, however, took a 2-1 pitch deep into the night over the center-field fence and the celebration was on.
''I was speechless. I couldn't even talk to the team because I just didn't know what to say,'' James said while grinning. ''We preach mental toughness so much and we always talk about putting this thing in the right direction and it happened.
''These kids fell behind, but stuck it out and got it done. They have such great attitudes. You know, this is a park where goofy things can happen, but finally one of those things went our way.
''This game just went back and forth like a prize fight. We fought it out inning by inning, but when it was all said and done it was Ryan Hughes who threw the winning punch.''
For Baire, it was a game in which he felt his team didn't do enough in the field, but he was also very complimentary of James and his bunch.
''Eric has done a heckuva job with those kids. They battled, they fought, they never gave up and in the end their persistence paid off,'' Baire said. ''But we have to play defense and we have to do a better job at the plate.
''Not holding leads late has happened to us a couple of times recently and it all boils down to defense. I told these kids before the season started you have to pitch, field and hit, but you have to do all three to be successful.
''The other thing is the fact that we only scored four runs on this field, and actually two of those were given to us on a unlikely bounce.''
Fuscardo allowed two hits through six, fanning nine and walking one, but did not figure into the decision. Meanwhile, Mark Walker did an outstanding job holding Madonna off the scoreboard in four scoreless inning of relief to pick up a victory. Walker allowed three singles.