CAMERON — Madonna’s baseball team has gotten used to having their backs against the wall over the past week. Since dropping into the losers’ bracket of the Class A, Region 1, Section 1 tournament last Tuesday, the Blue Dons have won five consecutive playoff games – including a second in a row against top seed Cameron 15-5 on Monday night — to claim their first sectional championship in a decade and fourth in school history.
“It says a lot about the seniors because honestly it really started with them in the dugout,” Madonna’s trainer Jeff Baire said after Monday’s win. “You never want to lose; you never want to put yourself in a position where you have to fight. However, on the other side, it happened to us last year when Wheeling Central got hot, came in and beat us twice (in the Divisional Championship). We had the opportunity to do the same and I can’t say enough good things about the guys.
Madonna entered the Section Championship needing two wins over the Dragons to win the Section title. A 20-9 win on Saturday forced a win-win game on the Dragons’ home court Monday night. After trailing by three runs throughout the game and being weather-delayed by 30 minutes, the Blue Dons exploded for a 12-run sixth inning that propelled them to their first sectional championship since 2012.
“We don’t do anything easy” Baire burst out laughing. “A few mistakes in the first moto and we lose three points and have to fight all the way. We fought, that’s what we did all year.
Two Blue Don errors and a double steal gave Cameron a 3-0 lead after the first inning. With their ace, Coy Angel, on the mound, the Dragons felt good about their chances.
“We were where we wanted to get into the game”, explained coach Adam Angel. “We had the pitch set up the way we wanted, then we went out and scored three early and sat in the driver’s seat.”
Coy Angel had already secured the Blue Dons a few times this season, including in the OVAC Class A Championship, where he struck out nine batters over five innings in a 6-5 win over Cameron.
Baire said Monday’s game plan was to work the count to try to get Angel’s pitching tally up and get into Cameron’s bullpen as soon as possible.
“That was our main goal, that’s what we talked about (Monday) and what we talked about after the game on Saturday,” Baire said. “When you’re up against guys who are buzzsaws, you really have to work them, and if you’re able to get more pitches and get into the bullpen, then all bets are off.”
After the first inning three-pointer, Madonna passed the ball to left-hander Marquese Parker, who has been a rock solid relief for the Dons this season. Parker held the Dragons to two runs in 4 1/3 innings of work — his longest appearance of the season — to keep his team in the game.
“I wanted to try to hold them back” said Parker. “Don’t give up any more runs and give my team a chance to come back with hits.”
A Lance Hartley brace late in the third gave the hosts a 4-0 advantage before Matt Amaismeier hit a goal-laden single in the top of the fourth to put Madonna on the board and make it 4-2. Hartley scored another late-inning home run to hold on to a three-run lead.
Madonna’s plan against Angel had worked, however, as Coach Angel headed for the bullpen with an out in the top of the fifth. However, as he was bringing Hartley to the mound to warm up, the plate umpire called for a 30-minute delay due to thunder in the area, with the score still at 5-2.
“I felt like we were good at bats even with Coy in there,” Baire said. “We pushed his pitch count and made a lot of good shots. That’s what we talked about. »
When play resumed, Lucas McAllister immediately hit a double down the left field line that scored David Connors and Cameron’s lead was reduced to one.
After Parker threw a scoreless bottom of the fifth, Madonna’s bats broke in a major fashion in the sixth inning.
After loading the bases with just one out, Brycen Hair hit in a fielder’s pick who scored as the tying run scored when a home pitch was out of time, tying the game 5-5. Connors followed with a swinging bunt that died in the infield, allowing him to reach first base safely and give Madonna a 6-5 lead, her first of the game. From there, the Blue Dons set off for the races. McAllister drew a goal-laden walk, Luke and Matt Amaismeier had back-to-back RBI singles, and Brock Reinacher and Hair had back-to-back two-run hits to complete a season-high 12 runs in the sixth.
“Hats off to them, they just don’t give up” Coach Angel said of Madonna. “No track is ever good enough with them. They fight, they fight and they fight. I saw them do it at (Wheeling) Central the other night and they did it to us twice. They just find a way to win.
Chase Littleton got the final two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning as Madonna took the 15-5 victory by mercy rule.
Parker took the win by pitching 4 1/3 innings, scattering five hits and two runs while striking out six.
“Marquese has done that all year for us; pick us up in difficult situations and fight their way”, Baire said. “He messaged me last night saying he wanted the ball. He definitely had his chance and didn’t waste it.
Matt Amaismeier led the team with four RBIs on two singles after his eight RBI game on Saturday.
“He just doesn’t want to lose” Baire said. “He did the same thing in basketball. That’s a senior right there.
Hair finished with a single, a double and three RBIs while Reinacher drove in two on a single. Seven of Madonna’s nine starters have driven in a run in the contest, and all nine places in the running order have scored at least once.
For Cameron, Coy Angel struck out seven in 4 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on four hits.
“Coy has been our leader on and off the pitch,” Coach Angel said of his son. “Making him miss is quite difficult because I know, on a personal level, what it meant to him. He got them twice and they finally got him today.
Hartley drove in three runs on a single and a double.
After playing in the losing group last week, Madonna will be one loss away from elimination as the Blue Dons advance to the Region 1 best-of-three series against Tyler Consolidated or Williamstown.
“As a team, we came together as one rather than as individuals,” Parker explained. “It pushed us all the way.
“(Playing elimination games) is stressful, but seeing the smiles on our faces and knowing we can still play ball is amazing.”
Class A Championship, Region 1, Section 1
Madonna 15, Cameron 5, 6 sleeves
M 0-0-0 2-1-12 — 15 11 4
C 3-0-1 1-0-0 — 5 5 0
MADONNA — Grishkevich (0K, 2BB), Parker wp (2) (6K, 3BB), Littleton (6) (0K, 1BB) and McAllister. Grichkevich 2S, rbi; L. Amaismeier S, rbi; Mr. Amaismeier 2S, 4rbi; Reinacher S, 2rbi; Hair S, D, 3rbi; Connors S, rbi; McAllister D, 2rbi.
CAMERON – C. Angel (7K, 5BB), Hartley lp (5) (1K, 4BB) and A. Angel. Hartley S, D, 3rbi; C. Angel D, S. Boule D