WHEELING - Playing for and winning Ohio Valley Athletic Conference championships can mean different things to different schools.
However, when you are not a member of your state's athletic commission and you are not permitted to play for state titles, conference championships can take on a new meaning. Such is the case with Linsly, which always seems to compete for OVAC banners as if they are its own state championship.
For proof, take a look at coach Jay Cartwright's Cadets baseball team, which has captured 16 OVAC titles, second only to Steubenville's 19, and won three of the last four Class 2A crowns.
PHOTO BY SCOTT McCLOSKEY
After a convincing victory against third-seeded Fort Frye on Saturday, Linsly will be looking for a Class 3A championship Friday night.
Senior Momo Felt fired a four-hitter, fanning nine and not issuing a free pass, and Jameson Murray blasted a two-run homer in the first inning for the only runs Linsly needed as the local Cadets disposed of Fort Frye by a 5-1 count in an OVAC semifinal contest at Holloway Field.
The victory is Linsly's 20th of the season in 22 outings, and sets up a monstrous championship matchup with once-beaten Magnolia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. Meanwhile, Sonny Bidwell's Cadets fall to 14-7 on the season.
"I am honestly super excited," a beaming Cartwright said. "This is our goal every year, playing for and having an opportunity to win another OVAC championship. We will be prepared to play whomever it is, we are just so glad to be there and have a shot.
"It is a great opportunity for a young team."
The difference in the game early was Linsly's ability to push runs across and Fort Frye's inability to scratch out needed hits with runners on.
Bidwell's squad stranded a runner at second in each of the opening two innings while the hosts were busy building a lead.
Colton Coss' one-out single got things going for the Orange-and-Black in the bottom of the first before Murray jumped on a 1-0 pitch and jacked it high over the left-field fence for a quick 2-0 lead. It ended up being all Felt needed.
The Cadets managed to scratch out single runs in the second, third and fourth frames as well. Dillon Curtin singled home a run in the second, while Coss walked, stole second, went to third on a passed ball and scored when Felt aided his own cause with a base hit in the third to make it 4-0.
It became 5-0 in the fourth on a leadoff single by Justin Lee, Tyler Ashbrook's sacrifice bunt and Arien Seymour's run-scoring single to left with two down.
The visiting Cadets pushed across their only run in the sixth on a leadoff double to deep left-center by losing pitcher Spencer Lang, followed by brother Chandler Lang's RBI single to left. Chandler Lang had three of Fort Frye's four hits, all singles.
"We executed," Cartwright added. "Momo is our senior leader and he was the key all the way on the mound and I am just so happy with senior Justin Lee, another senior, who has battled through injuries his whole career and played so well. He has really matured.
"The kids lost focus a little in the sixth, but I let them know about it and they pulled it together. It was just a clutch day at the plate, and especially with two outs. We also had a solid day in the field against a tough team.
"Don't forget, Fort Frye is a very good team and their pitcher was all around the plate. Sonny (Bidwell) has had some good team and we have battled for years in Class AA."
Bidwell, meanwhile, was proud of his kids, but also disappointed.
"Our kids came to battle, but so did Linsly," he said. "We just let down at the plate with the strikeouts. I thought we played very well on defense too, but again, they matched it. I am proud of these kids.
This is the first trip to the OVAC Tournament for this group.
"It was nice to see our kids play on a big stage, but we just came up short in a few places. Spencer challenged them at the plate and battled, but we have got to learn to be a little more dimensional on the mound. Their kid also did an outstanding job on the mound for them."