GLEN DALE - Things are starting to come together at the right time for the Madonna baseball team as the Blue Dons are one victory away from a sectional championship.
Wednesday's 7-0 victory against Bishop Donahue at Monarch Field was arguably the biggest of the season. Not just because it happened in the West Virginia Region One, Section One Tournament, but because it finally got the monkey off the back of the Blue Dons.
Madonna was 0-2 in the previous meetings with Bishop Donahue, including a loss in the OVAC Class 1A title game.
Weirton Madonna’s Ross Comis comes in to score during Wednesday’s game against Bishop Donahue.
Photo by Josh Strope
''They have played phenomenal all year, Bishop has,'' Madonna coach Jeff Baire said. ''Coach (Bob) Kleeh has done a wonderful job and you could see this coming with these guys two or three years ago.
''However, at the same time, we felt like we gave two ballgames away with them. Our focus (Wednesday) was defense, make the routine plays. Our defense shot us in the foot both times we played them. If we made the routine plays, we probably win one of those games. We wanted to play solid defense and you saw what happened.''
The Blue Dons committed an error in the seventh to avoid a spotless game. Considering that runner didn't score, no harm, no foul.
Outside of the defense, highlighted by a diving catch from Nick Battista on Garrett Yurisko in the third that turned into a double play when Bryce Jones was doubled off first, Madonna continued to hit the ball with with 10 base knocks, including an opposite-field home run by Will Bowser.
Add in solid pitching by Luca Fuscardo, who struck out nine and surrendered four singles in a complete-game shutout, and the Blue Dons clearly look poised to return to their championship form of two seasons ago.
''Luca threw a phenomenal game,'' Baire said. ''We were aggressive on the basepaths. It's the second game in a row we've thrown up more than 10 hits so the bats are coming around at the right time. Defensively, we are starting to come around. Our pitching has been there all year.
''This was probably our most complete game we've played all year.''
Madonna scored in the first on an RBI groundout by Connor Mogan for all the runs Fuscardo would need.
The Blue Dons added three in the third. A throwing error led to two runs and Ross Comis' RBI single plated the other.
Bowser's homer to left field came in the fourth inning to put Madonna up 5-0.
The Blue Dons' final runs came in the seventh as Mogan scored on a passed ball and Nick Ossman singled in Logan Linder.
In the meantime, it wasn't top-seeded Bishop Donahue's day. The lone highlight for the Bishops came when center fielder Yurisko fully extended to make a diving catch on Ossman in the third.
Bishop Donahue returns to Monarch Field at 5 this afternoon to face Wheeling Central in an elimination game. The winner plays Madonna at 5 p.m. Friday in Glen Dale.
''I will take blame for the way we played,'' Kleeh said. ''I didn't have them ready and it showed out on the field. Coach Baire had his team ready to play and Coach Kleeh didn't. We battled for this first-place section and now we are in a hole and have to win three straight to get back into it.
''We have to take it one game at a time, starting against a good Wheeling Central team. I expect Mic Keys is going to be throwing so we are going to have to put the ball in play a lot better than we did (Wednesday).''
Kleeh plans on throwing Hunter Kaschke against the Maroon Knights.