NEW MARTINSVILLE - People don't normally ask how, just how many.
Magnolia baseball coach Dave Cisar is grateful for that today.
The Blue Eagles rallied with six runs in the bottom of the sixth Tuesday to take an 8-4 lead on Paden City in a West Virginia Class A Region One, Section One showdown at the George S. Mullett Baseball Complex. But with two outs in the top of the seventh and the Wildcats on the brink of elimination, they mustered the strength to claw for four runs and knot the contest at 8-8.
That gave things a tinge of a destiny feel, but Magnolia had other ideas. Chase Miller singled with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and scored on a Grant Cain bloop double as the Blue Eagles (15-6) ended the Wildcats' season with a 9-8 victory, winning their sixth game in a row.
''That's quite often the typical high school baseball game. You have a lot of walks, a lot of errors and a lot of mental errors,'' Cisar said. ''I don't think Magnolia or Paden City played their best game.
''But sometimes you become fortunate.''
Already with 4-1 lead and with the bases loaded in the top of the fifth, the Wildcats (11-13) had a chance to bust the game open. But Chase Miller, who came on in relief of starter Jake Starkey, induced a grounder to shortstop and a force at second to limit more carnage.
As the Blue Eagles came off the field Cisar shouted ''we may have just won the game right there.''
Magnolia, which will face the survivor of Bishop Donahue and Madonna on Tuesday in New Martinsville, began to chip away in the fifth. They sent seven batters to the plate and were the beneficiaries of a pair of errors, but only scored one run courtesy of a Tyler Anderson single.
After Miller got out of a mini-jam in the top of the sixth, the Blue Eagles bats went to work.
An error, two walks and an RBI single by Miller off tiring Paden City starter Luke Cooper made it 4-3. An error brought the tying run home and then Willhoite sent a Levi Meadows fastball over the left-field fence for a 7-4 Magnolia lead. The inning continued with Starkey bringing in another run for what seemed like an insurmountable lead.
That ruined what looked like a winning performance from Cooper, who struck out five.
''Luke Cooper pitched one heck of a game - probably as well as he's pitched this year,'' Wildcats coach Brent Croasmun said. ''I think he grew up a lot.
''I think these kids see what it takes to get to the next level and I think we're on our way.''
It appeared as though the Wildcats were on their way to certain defeat after Miller sandwiched a pair of outs around a walk to begin the seventh inning, with his team holding a four-run lead. Kennedy Cain, who drew that walk, went to second on a wild pitch and third on an infield single off the bat of Craig Allen, who moved to second on catcher's indifference.
A walk to Hayden Hizer, who finished with two singles, a solo homer and three RBI, walked to load the bases, ending Miller's stint on the mound in favor of Zach Willhoite. Meadows walked to force in a run and Cooper singled in another. An error on a ball hit to second base made it 8-7, but was compounded when a throw home got over the catcher's head allowing the tying run to score. The ball bounced back into the infield and Cooper sprinted for home, only to be tagged out on a head-first slide to end the inning.
''I'll give them credit. They came back from a four-run deficit,'' Cisar said. ''But let's also look at how we came back.
''It was a game of ups and downs.''
Cain led the Blue Eagles with three hits and Willhoite added a sacrifice fly in the first to finish with four RBI. Brandon Mason and Miller had two hits a piece.
Cooper had a pair of hits and an RBI and Cain singled in a run for the Wildcats.
''I told them you can't run the clock out in baseball ... you've got to get three outs,'' Croasmun said. ''We were so close. ''You can go back through a one-run game and pick out many, many things that could have changed the outcome.
''I can't fault the effort. They played their hearts out and battled.''