Magnolia’s success relies on pitching

NEW MARTINSVILLE-When is 30 wins not enough?

When you need to more to claim a Class A state championship.

That is where veteran Magnolia head coach Dave Cisar finds himself as he prepares to lead his 30-4 Blue Eagles into the state high school baseball tournament at Appalachian Power Park beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday.

Magnolia won the Class AA championship in 2006 with a 10-1 win over Liberty Harrison. The New Martinsville-based team’s only other state title in the sport occurred in 1989 when it defeated Independence by an 8-2 margin.

“If someone had told me at the start of the season that we’d win 30 games I would’ve told them they were nuts,” Cisar said following his team’s 12-1, five-inning victory over St. Marys in the regional championship game.

“We played very, very well and very, very emotional, which we talked about,” continued the coach. “You need to do that, especially when you play at home.”

That won’t be the case, however, on Friday as the Blue Eagles will take on a 23-10 Notre Dame team that knocked off East Hardy 6-5 and punch its ticket to baseball’s “Big Dance”.

Senior pitcher/shortstop Kyle Elliott tossed a three-hitter in the mercy rule win over the Blue Devils and appears to be the arm Cisar will go to against an Irish batting order led by freshman pitcher Josh Baker’s .484 average and junior Chris Petrucci’s .413.

Elliott, who struck out seven and walked three in his regional victory, isn’t the only hurler on Cisar’s roster, however, as seniors Chandler Sapp and Tanner Hanna as well as juniors Jake Starkey and Zach Willhoite and freshmen Chase Miller and Derrick Blain could see time on the mound.

“He (Elliott) threw well and he threw hard,” said Cisar. “It was the first time he’d thrown in a couple of weeks.

“His arm was a bit gimpy earlier in this week. That’s why we didn’t play him against (Wheeling) Central.”

That 3-1 victory went to Willhoite, who allowed eight hits, but struck out two and walked none in going the distance.

“I thought we had a heck of a chance to have a good team because we had three senior pitchers and two juniors in (Jake) Starkey and Willhoite. And, then (Chase) Miller came in as a freshman.

“We’ve gotten better as a team. And, as we’ve gotten better, we’ve gotten more confident.”

And the Blue Eagles will need that confidence it they are to get past a Class A field that includes Charleston Catholic and Valley Fayette, who meet in Friday’s other first round game 45 minutes following the conclusion of Magnolia and Notre Dame.

At the plate Cisar’s squad has been getting outstanding contributions from a number of players including seniors Ryan Walton, Sapp, Elliott and Hanna, juniors Grant Cain, Yale Wetzel, Starkey, Brantley Hissom, Willhoite and Drew Keller and sophomores Soren Shade, and Brandon Fayad.

Notre Dame will counter with Baker, Petrucci, freshman Jordan Miller (.393), sophomores Alex Florio (.368) and Spencer Harlow (.340) and junior DeRonne Murphy (.361).