Golf: State Tourney Begins at Oglebay

WHEELING – It had to be something to keep T.J. Brancazio from PNC Park Monday when his Pittsburgh Pirates were trying to finish off St. Louis and capture their first postseason series victory in 34 years.

It was.

Brancazio, the Pirates fan, also doubles as the golf coach at Madonna.

The Blue Dons begin their quest for the Class A state title beginning today at the Robert Trent Jones course at Oglebay Park.

Monday, while the Bucs were falling to the Cards 2-1, to force a Game 5 Wednesday in St. Louis, Brancazio was putting his team through the paces during their practice round.

“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” Brancazio said. “I was at both of the (playoff) games in Pittsburgh and I’m 24-6 this year. This takes precedence, and it’s not even close.”

Brancazio is hoping his team fares a little better than the Pirates did Monday.

“If we play as well as we are capable of, I think we can make a run at it,” he said.

It may not have as much to do with his own team as it does the competition. Defending champion Charleston Catholic, like Madonna, and Buffalo, return all their top players from a year ago.

Catholic bolted out to a 19-stroke lead last year and cruised to the title.

Madonna and Buffalo were left to battle it out for second, which the Blue Dons were able to do.

Brancazio does believe this year can be different.

“Last year, Charleston Catholic, which has an outstanding team, got off to such a good start,” he said. “We have set a number, a number I have in mind, and if we can shoot in that range somewhere, I think we will be in good shape for (heading into Day 2).”

Brancazio said that number is 235, the number that Catholic carded in the first round a year ago in taking what proved to be an insurmountable score.

Balance is the key for Madonna.

Take Region 1 medalist Nick Mazur.

The day before the Region 1 tournament, Mazur was in a shootout with teammate Matthew Lyons just to make the four-man rotation.

He won 78-80 at Williams Country Club and ended up shooting a 75 at the Region 1 tournament to medal.

“There have been times when our guys are shooting within a stroke or two of one another, but the same can be said of Charleston Catholic, and Buffalo, and St. Mary’s for that matter,” Brancazio said.

“For a coach, it’s a nice position to be in. I’m not going to put pressure on them, they are capable of shooting good numbers and the fact that we’ve been here is also a plus.

“A lot of times, the first day is when you have the butterflies, but after you hit that first shot, they’ll settle into it.”

No. 1 Michael Rogers, who won the OVAC championship this year, is the catalyst.

“He’s played pretty consistently the whole season,” Brancazio said. “I think what has helped is our other guys have elevated their play. You know that Michael is going to shoot his 75 to 80 and that just motivates the other guys to get a (low) number.”

The scoring format in the state tournament is four players and count the three lowest scores.

Alex Colantonio and Thomas Gianni will also tee it up for Madonna, which had a 227 (in the range of what Brancazio is hoping for Tuesday, though that was at the Blue Dons’ home course) to edge runnerup St. Mary’s (244), which also qualified as a team.

Other area individuals qualifying for the Class A tournament are Magnolia’s Peyton Moore and Bishop Donahue’s Steven Gretchen.

In Class AAA, defending state champion Cole Hand is back, helping his team place second in the Region 1 tournament last week.

Parkersburg South was the top qualifying team, led by OVAC champion Adeena Shears and Region I medalist Alex Schreckengost (74).

Qualifying for Park are Hand, Kyle Wenzel, Dylan Wojcik and Freddie Fitzsimmons.

Individual qualifiers were Brooke’s Logan Lojszcyk (76) and University’s Eric Wirth (80).