WHEELING - Bishop Donahue's Bryce Jones likes to think of himself as a risk taker.
That fact was highly evident, in the top of the seventh inning Friday in the West Virginia Class A, Region One, Section One championship at the I-470 Sports Complex.
Jones scurried home from third on a ground ball to third, to give the Bishops at 4-3 victory against Madonna, and the school's first baseball sectional championship since 1992.
Photo by DAVE MORRISON
Madonna’s Ross Comis attempts unsuccessfully to get around the tag of Bishop Donahue catcher Alex Riedel during Friday’s game.
"I told myself when I got to third, if there is a ground ball anywhere in the infield, I was going to go," Jones said. "I like to take chances. It was a risk I was willing to take."
When Alex Riedel's grounder came his way, Jones froze, as Madonna's Ross Comis eyed him, before firing to first for the out. As soon as Comis looked him back to throw to first, Jones broke for home. The relay to the plate was wide of catcher Dom Sylvestri, allowing Jones to score the go-ahead run.
"It was my decision," Jones said. "When he looked me back and I knew they were going to first I just broke and ran as hard as I could."
"He really put the pressure on their defense there," Bishop Donahue coach Bob Kleeh said. "He saw the opportunity to make a play and he took advantage of it. That was a great piece of base running. He is a great player, he has great instincts."
Jesse Padlow retired Madonna, which sent its top of the order to the plate, in order in bottom of the seventh. The junior's effort was just what Bishop needed, especially after it frittered away a late lead the day before.
"I wanted the ball, I want to be in this situation, but yesterday (a 2-1 Madonna victory that forced a final game) was a tough one," Padlow said. "Honestly, I just blocked that out, and focused on that inning. We had done pretty well against their top two hitters in the lineup but (Luca) Fuscardo was the big one because he had hit us pretty well and they had their big guys following him. When he hit it to center field, I just really breathed a sigh of relief."
Indeed, the heart of the Madonna order was a combined 8-for-9 with two runs and two RBI.
It didn't come to that.
"That was a tough one, we gave it everything we had and we just came up short," Madonna coach Tim Provenzano said. "Some days, things just don't go your way. Give them a lot of credit. They made plays when they had to make plays."
Madonna went up 1-0 in the second when Will Bowser, who led off the inning with a single, scored on a single by Nick Mazur.
The Dons had a chance to add to it in the third, when Comis, who was 3-for-3, reached on a two-out single, and then tried to score when Bowser, who also had three hits, had his second hit of the game.
"Their left fielder sort of bobbled the ball out there and the cutoff man wasn't paying attention," Provenzano said. "It's a play we are going to try to make every time. On most days it's something that works for us, but not today."
Bishop took the lead in the fourth when Hunter Kaschke and Riedel ripped back-to-back doubles to tie the game at 1-1. Later, Chaice Truex reached on a error and Lane Lemasters was hit by a pitch loading the bases.
With two outs Austin Cunningham walked to score courtesy runner Jared Yates and Padlow followed with a single to make it 3-1.
Madonna tied it in the sixth when Fuscardo, Comis and Bower had three straight singles. Bowser's single scored Fuscardo but the Bishops cut down Comis at the plate, and it turned out to be a big out.
Silvestri tied the game with a single, setting up the wild seventh.
Padlow, who retired the hard-hitting Blue Dons in order in three of the final four innings, praised his first baseman, Truex, who contributed to several outs at first with a long stretch of his 6-foot-6 frame.
"Just like in basketball, he makes plays," Padlow said. "I feel really comfortable with these guys behind me. As you saw, all these guys contribute and make plays. We don't need three strikeouts to have a successful inning."
Kleeh said the sectional title was special, because his team, 13-11, had bonded right before the tournament, and, "the last time we won a sectional title at Bishop Donahue, 1992, these kids weren't even born."
"This is a big thing for us," Kleeh said. "We've come together as a team in this sectional tournament. Before our last (regular-season) game at Bridgeport, I gave each kid a pencil and I told them to break it in half and throw it on the ground. I told them that was our team now. We were not together, kind of scattered in different ways. I took those pencils and bound them with a rubber band. I said, 'Now, try to break them again.' They couldn't do it. That is what happened when you come together as a team, you can't be broken.