WHEELING - The Ohio Valley Athletic Conference is preparing to hand out its last handful of trophies for the 2013-2014 school year.
If it seems like this one has flown by, you aren't alone. I distinctly remember wanting nothing more than to be finished going to school, and also recall my parents' advice - enjoy it while it lasts because one day you will want to go back. Just another tidbit that was shrugged off back then, but now is looked upon as sage in retrospect.
At any rate, spring championships in tennis, baseball, softball and track - in that order - are about to be won. With that in mind, let's take a look at the brackets for baseball, which holds its semifinals at higher-seeded teams' parks Saturday.
The winner's advance to next weekend's finals at Steubenville's Vaccaro Field. Note that all records are reflective of Wednesday's cutoff date.
No. 4 Morgantown (10-6)
at No. 1 Edison (11-1), 11 a.m.
The Wildcats were rolling along undefeated until running into Steubenville earlier this week. Edison has a number of capable pitchers, including Nolan Marcus and Collin Scott, just to name a few, and you know it can swing the sticks. The Mohigans, meanwhile, have been somewhat of a surprise but don't really have a signature victory.
No. 3 Brooke (11-4)
at No. 2 Wheeling Park (11-5), 11 a.m.
The Bruins actually were in line to play host to this game before a 4-2 loss to the Patriots - their second of the season - Wednesday at home. Brooke has always been able to hit the cover off the ball, but its pitching has matched or exceeded the offense this season. Coach Mike McLeod and Wheeling Park are still trying to figure things out as the postseason nears, but have the makings of a dangerous club.
Finals Prediction: Edison vs. Wheeling Park.
No. 4 Harrison Central
at No. 1 Steubenville
(12-4), 4 p.m.
You know what you're getting with Coach Fred Heatherington and Big Red. Great pitching, timely hitting and a team that normally won't beat itself. Bryan Pierro, Dimitri Collaros, Anthony Zorne, Kai McClurg and Justin Corsi are just a few of the Steubenville names to look for Saturday. The Huskies, meanwhile, barely clawed their way into the field, edging Buckeye Local by a little more than a point. Don't sleep on Coach Mike Valesko's club, though. Nick Staten, Dalton Rutter, Kalub Mitchell, Dustin Reddish and Austin Kowalski, among others, can play.
No. 3 St. Clairsville (6-5)
at No. 2 Martins Ferry
This will be the third meeting of the week, with Martins Ferry winning the previous two by scores of 6-0 (Monday) and 8-2 (Wednesday). The Purple Riders enter on quite the hot streak, having won all 10 of their games in the span of the last two weeks. They're led by the likes of Robert Vargo, already a two-sport all-stater this year, as well as Marcus Sutton, Ethan and Brenden Baire and T.J. Jacobs. The Red Devils may be the underdog, but don't count out guys such as Ryan Busby, Cody Goletz and Ben Coleman.
Finals Prediction: Steubenville vs. Martins Ferry
No. 4 Bellaire (9-4) at
No. 1 Steubenville Catholic (13-0), 11 a.m.
Right now it's hard to fathom anyone slowing down the Steubenville Catholic train, but Bellaire is about to give it a shot. The Crusaders, led by Brenton Colabella, Stone Romano, Chris Murphy, Aleks Porreca, Josh Merriman and Tony and Michael Barber, appear to be on a mission. Don't sleep on the Big Reds though, because they swing some mean bats. Spencer Badia is the catalyst, but Wyatt Back, Tyler Ramsay, and Brendan Ross are all capable.
No. 3 Linsly (14-3)
at No. 2 Fort Frye (14-1), 11 a.m.
If ever there was a deceiving third seed, it would be Linsly. With a stable of capable pitchers (Logan Goodnight, Jameson Murray and Tyler Ashbrook) the Cadets can, and do, compete with anyone. That says nothing of an offense that features Arien Seymour (leadoff), Colton Coss and Zeke Scherich. The other team with the Cadets nickname, Fort Frye, is never well known in the immediate area but seems to be involved in nearly every OVAC championship event.
Finals Prediction: Steubenville Catholic vs. Linsly.
No. 4 Shadyside (4-4)
at No. 1 Bridgeport (12-4), 5 p.m.
Things always get interesting when these two rivals meet, regardless of sport. This figures to be no different as Coach Ted Downing's Bulldogs ran away from the field in the regular season. Bridgeport features Bailey McGrath, Parker Dyson, Andrew Hadzima, Brad Pritchett and Q.J. Williams. The Tigers haven't gotten many games in this season, but got enough to make it count. Zack Frizzi, Colton Campbell and Austin Dorris could play for anyone in the valley.
No. 3 Toronto (8-8)
No. 2 Caldwell (8-6), 1 p.m.
The margin between going on the road and playing at home in this matchup was razor-thin. As luck would have it, Coach Brian Perkins' Red Knights are the team to wind up on a bus. Toronto is no stranger to OVAC success, having won four titles since 2000. Blaze and Chez Glenn are playmakers, while Hank Clegg and Tyler Antinone provide sparks. Brennan Sailing, Kyler McElfresh, Tanner Clark and Mason Janusik pace the Redskins.
Finals Prediction: Shadyside vs. Toronto.
No. 4 St. John (3-4)
at No. 1 Madonna (11-4), 6 p.m.
The Blue Dons again appear to be among a handful of teams in the chase for a W.Va. Class A state championship, thanks to another balanced club. Ross Comis, Caleb Baire, Michael Rodgers and Nick Mazur make Madonna go. With numbers up, the Fighting Irish are back in the conversation thanks to the play of veterans like Quinn Myers and Mason Kull, as well as newcomers Zach Schnegg and Jared Keiser.
No. 3 Paden City (8-8)
at No. 2 Bishop Donahue (7-6), noon
The Bishops, who are looking for their fourth straight conference crown, have played a heckuva schedule and their near-.500 record is proof positive of that. Chaice Truex and Hunter Kaschke power Coach Bob Kleeh's squad. The Wildcats, behind the play of Zach Heasley, Levi Meadows, Craig Allen, Hayden Hizer, Isaac Hall and Luke Cooper, are on their way to once again being a tough out at tournament time.
Finals Prediction: Madonna vs. Bishop Donahue.
Shawn Rine can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.