CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two and a half months after meeting in Charleston for the Class A basketball title, No. 2 Wheeling Central and No. 3 Ravenswood will play on Friday for a spot in the baseball state championship.
It’s a third straight baseball state tournament appearance for Central Catholic (23-4), looking to breakthrough for its first title since 2011.
The Maroon Knights two years ago fell in the title game to Wahama, while dropping a 2-0 decision to eventual champion Charleston Catholic last season in the semifinals.
“We lost three good pitchers from last year and a couple of good hitters from last year’s team,” said Wheeling Central coach Bo McConnaughy. “I did not expect us to have the success that we’ve had. The addition of Doug Clark and Logan Wells from Bishop Donahue (after the school closed) were big assets to us.
“The guys really got into what we were trying to teach them as far as hitting goes and my philosophy to the game,” he continued. “They’ve done a really outstanding job. If you get good pitching, make the routine plays and hit with men on base, you’re going to be in the game any time you play. Our defense and pitching have really led us.”
The Maroon Knights spent the final month of the regular season ranked No. 1 in the MetroNews Power Rankings, going back to April 15, as the bats started to heat up.
“There were times early in the year where we were leaving 10, 12 men on base,” McConnaughy said. “We finally put it together there towards the end and we’ve really been hitting well the last few weeks.”
Wheeling Central has eight players hitting above .300 on the year with at least 46 at-bats. Angelo Gentile has led the way with a .435 average, followed by Clark (.434), Patrick Brown (.433), Wells (.387, 22 RBIs), Bryan Courts (.333), George Cupp (.324), Adam Murray (.307, 21 RBIs) and Chris Furka (.302, 20 RBIs).
Clark has led the way on the mound, posting a 5-0 record and 1.25 ERA, striking out 46 in 39 and one-third innings. Cupp (3-1, 1.14 ERA) and Murray (4-1, 1.42 ERA) have also logged over 24 innings on the mound this year.
“As a team, it’s been someone different stepping up every game,” McConnaughy said. “These guys have been to the state tournament and they have the experience. Our expectations are high and we’re confident, but we’re not cocky.”
A state championship win this weekend would add to the Maroon Knights’ team titles already won this year in football, boys basketball, girls basketball and softball.
On the other side, Ravenswood (24-10), last year’s runner-up, enters state tournament play having won 18 of its last 21 games following a slow start to the season.
“Last year we didn’t have a whole lot of expectations and did really well,” said Ravenswood coach Wes Swain. “This year, I think there was a lot of pressure on them.”
A Wheeling trip on April 13 and 14 featured losses to Brooke (8-7), Weir (10-9) and Wheeling Central (9-5).
The Red Devils, who left that trip 6-7 overall, answered with 11 straight wins.
“We just took off,” Swain said. “The coaching staff expected a lot early and we had a slow start. But we just kind of loosened up, let them play ball and everything just seemed to take off and really hit its stride after that trip to Wheeling.”
Chase Swain has led the Red Devils at the plate and on the mound, hitting .554 with 53 RBIs, 47 runs scored and 10 home runs. In 52 and one-third innings thrown, he’s posted a 6-3 record with a 2.94 ERA, striking out 66.
Like Wheeling Central, Ravenswood also has eight players hitting above .300 with at-least 80 at-bats. That list includes Blake Bennett (.459, 33 RBIs, 56 runs scored), Stephen Dawson (.388, 32 RBIs, 28 runs scored), Lakin Tucker (.387, 37 RBIs, 39 runs scored), Jake Greene (.371, 37 RBIs, 33 runs scored), Luke Miller (.344, 24 RBIs, 31 runs scored), Andrew Anglin (.340) and Ciah Kennedy (.338).
“Wheeling Central is as good of a team that we’ve played,” Swain said. “One through nine, they’re really, really good. You’re going to have to beat them at some point in time, so you might as well play them right off the bat.
Friday, June 1: Session 2 (Class A semifinals)
5 p.m. — No. 1 Charleston Catholic (25-12) vs. No. 4 Moorefield (21-9)
50 minutes after game one — No. 2 Wheeling Central (23-4) vs. No. 3 Ravenswood (24-10)
Saturday, June 2 (Championship Saturday)
10 a.m. — Class AAA state championship
45 minutes after awards presentation — Class AA state championship
45 minutes after awards presentation — Class A state championship