MOUNDSVILLE - To say Bishop Donahue's Hunter Kaschke was in a zone in the Bishops 6-0 OVAC Class 1A semifinal victory against Paden City would be the classic understatement.
The Bishop Donahue senior found his groove early en route to Saturday's 12-strikeout, two-hit performance that puts the Bishops in the OVAC championship game for the fourth consecutive year.
"That was the best pitching performance I've seen this season," Paden City skipper Brent Croasmun said. "We didn't really play a bad game, but he kept us off balance the whole game."
Photo by Dave Morrison/ Bishop Donahue winning pitcher Hunter Kaschke throws a pitch during the Bishops’ 6-0 victory against Paden City in a OVAC Class 1A semifinal.
No need to explain it to Paden City catcher Michael Wilcox. The sophomore, who is hitting over .300 on the season, hadn't struck out all season.
Kaschke got Wilcox twice Saturday, and afterward Wilcox hunted him down and told him just that.
Ironically, the game started with Paden City's Hayden Hizer reaching on an error. Levi Meadows followed that with a fielder's choice.
After that, Kaschke found his zone.
He struck out seven of the next eight, including the side in the second and third inning.
Bishop coach Bob Kleeh cited the first two hitters as the key.
"He learned a little bit after those first two hitters hit the ball pretty hard," Kleeh said. "He's been in big games, and he started keeping the ball down, found his rhythm and he never really lost it again. He's pitched two-in-row like that for us now. If he his on his game like he was today, he's hard to beat."
"Everything was working," Kaschke said. "I found my rhythm pretty early and that's the way I like to work. If I fall off, I try to get it right back."
He worked ahead in the count most of the day, keep the ball down and only allowed one more hit the rest of the way.
In the meantime, the Bishops got all the runs they would need early.
Bryce Moore and Bryce Jones opened the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles. Alex Riedel delivered a one-out double to score Moore and Lane Lemasters grounded out to score Jones, who slid in just underneath Wilcox' s tag at the plate on the throw from Zach Heasley at first.
After that there were a whole lot of zeroes.
Lost in the performance by Kaschke was that of Paden City pitcher Kyle Postlethwait, who had pitched well in his own right, striking out seven.
The Bishops pushed another run across in the fifth, when Moore, who had singled,. scored on Kaschke's single.
In the sixth three straight hits - a leadoff double by Lane Lemasters and singles by Levonte Hampton and Zak McCoy - all lead to runs. McCoy's single scored Lemasters and Hampton and Moore scored on an error.
"It was nice to get those late runs," Kleeh said. "Paden City has a really talented team and (Croasmun) does a great job with those kids. You never feel safe with a 2-0 or 3-0 lead against that team."
Paden City's best chance to get on the board came in the fourth when Levi Meadows led off the inning with a single and Zach Heasley - the only Wildcat who Kaschke did not strike out - was hot by a pitch with one out. However, Kaschke got out of that with a strikeout and a fly to right field, part of the 11 he retired in a row to end the game.
"He wasn't the OVAC 1A player of the year (in 2013) for no reason," Croasmun said. "When a kid is throwing like that, you have to take care of every opportunity you get, and we really didn't get a lot of opportunities. The kid threw one heck of a game."
Now Bishop will move on and face Madonna Saturday at 10:30 a.m. in Steubenville. It is a rematch of last year's OVAC 1A title game, won by Bishop 2-1.
"That was our focus, especially for the seniors on this team," Kaschke said. "We wanted a chance to go back and win it for the fourth time. That would be special."
"Not too many kids get a chance to do that," Kleeh said.