WEIRTON - Notre Dame and Charleston Catholic came into Saturday's second day of the West Virginia Catholic baseball tournament with lofty expectations and plenty to prove.
While both had successful weekends, part of the success of each team came at the expense of Coach Jimbo Wodusky's youthful Wheeling Central squad.
Notre Dame, ranked No. 1 in the latest Class A state poll, was taken to the wire by the Maroon Knights in the morning opener, scoring the eventual game-winning run on Kolby Abruzzino's RBI double in the bottom of the sixth for a hard-earned 5-4 victory against Central at Ed Bowman Field.
Wheeling Central coach Jimbo Wodusky, left, talks with Charleston Catholic coach Bill Mehle prior to their game.
Wodusky's squad then packed up and headed across the river for a meeting with defending state Class A champion Charleston Catholic, which hit the cover off the ball in rolling to a 15-10 verdict against the Knights.
Wheeling Central (3-7) got out of the gates strong in the opener scoring a pair in the top of the first. Nate Bakaitis and Jeff Gwynn got things started with back-to-back walks ahead of Brian Shaw's one-out RBI double to left. After a wild pitch moved Shaw to third with two down he scored on an error to make it 2-0.
After loading the bases and failing to score in the first inning, the Fighting Irish (6-1) cut the deficit in half in the third on a Chris Petrucci bunt single, a fielder's choice and two errors.
The Knights got that run back in the fourth on Anthony Gentile's run-scoring double, but watched Notre Dame knot it with a pair in the bottom of the inning. Gavin Goff's sacrifice fly and Petrucci's triple provided the runs.
Jordan Miller's run-producing single in the fifth had Central behind for the first time in the contest at 4-3, however, Kevin Keane's RBI base hit in the top of the sixth once again tied things up.
After a lead-off strikeout, Petrucci's third hit of the game got things going. Chad Morrison hit into a two-out fielder's choice before Abruzzino's double provided the game-winner.
Abruzzino then set Wheeling Central down in order in the top of the seventh to finish things off.
"We have been hitting the ball well all season," Notre Dame coach Patrick Marozzi said. "This team is very solid 1 through 9 in the order and we are averaging about 12 or 13 hits a game.
"And we also have a few kids who can come off the bench and contribute in key situations. We are fortunate enough to have a big indoor facility that we use and it really helps us work on a lot of things and I give a lot of our credit the last couple of years to that.
"I have said from the first day of practice that the goal is to get better every day. This is a big win for us, it is actually the first time we have beaten Wheeling Central in this tournament the five years that I have been here. It is always nice to get wins over quality teams."
Notre Dame also pulled off a one-run victory against Bishop Donahue Friday afternoon.
"They are an experienced, senior oriented team and are very good," Wodusky said. "We fought to manufacture a run to tie it in the sixth, but we could only get the one and it wasn't enough.
"Errors at inopportune times are killing us. It has been our MO so far. We play well for four or five innings, but it is the couple we don't play well in that usually leads to our demise."
Charleston Catholic 15, Wheeling Central 10
STEUBENVILLE - Charleston Catholic pounded out 20 hits in a marathon contest that totaled 25 runs, 32 hits and a dozen errors at Bellview Park.
While the Irish (7-3) scored four in the first inning and three each in the second and third, the Maroon Knights left the bases loaded in the second and fifth innings and also stranded runners in scoring position in five different innings.
Trailing 10-1, Wodusky's squad did manage to push across five runs in the top of the fourth to trim the deficit to four, however, Charleston Catholic equaled that in the fifth to pull away.
In all, the Irish had five players who collected three hits each, led by Connor Golden who was a home run short of the cycle and plated a pair of runs. Golden also went innings on the mound, fanning seven and walking six, to pick up a victory.
Jordan Covelli had a pair of singles, a triple and three RBI while Thad Jameson, Sam McKown and Trey Swisher also had three safties each.
Bakaitis singled three times for the Maroon Knights while starting, and losing, pitcher Brian Campbell doubled home a run in the bottom of the first to again give Central a quick lead, but short-lived, lead.
"Overall we got some real positive things out of this game, including getting a lot of kids some at bats and field time," Charleston Catholic coach Bill Mehle commented.
"We have some young kids that are really learning to hit good pitching at the high school level. Our bats were pretty quiet the first couple games of the year, but we went back to work on the fundamental and working on hitting line drives and things are turning around.
"Another key point was that we did a good job running the bases, which we practice every day, and executed some nice bunts. We can hit the ball, but also like to put a little emphasis on playing small ball.
"When we are not executing, we are normally striking out a lot.
"Connor Golden is also on fire. He went 5-5 Friday night and now has 10 RBI in our last two games."
Charleston Catholic handed Weirton Madonna its first loss of the season in another one-run game late Friday.