Regional final pits St. Marys, Magnolia

ST. MARYS -It must seem like many moons ago when St. Marys baseball found itself within earshot of reaching the state tournament.

Today in New Martinsville, the third-ranked Blue Devils (27-6) meet top-ranked Magnolia (29-4) in the Class A, Region I finals. First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

The last time the Blue Devils were one win away from advancing to Charleston occurred in the mid-1990s. Their last state trip took place in 1990.

The two teams met on April 1 in St. Marys with Magnolia winning 19-12.

“I think we had five or six errors in that game,” St. Marys coach Ed Wilson said. “Magnolia is pretty solid, but if we just made the plays defensively we would have been all right. Defense has been our downfall all year.”

St. Marys advanced to the regional championship game by virtue of its 12-2 win Monday at Clay-Battelle. Jarrod Lough pitched all six innings and improved to 6-2. Now the Blue Devils are handing the game ball to lefty Michael Stout, who has compiled a 7-1 mark with an earned-run average of 2.33. In 45 innings of work, the sophomore has struck out 58 batters.

“When we have a big game, we stick Michael in there,” Wilson said. “By throwing a lefty at them, sometimes that gives them a little different look than they get from the other side.”

Wilson has never won 27 games in one season. He hasn’t had one of his players reach the 60-hit plateau either, but Jarrod Lough is sitting at 59 entering today’s game. Lough’s offensive numbers are all-state worthy. In addition to batting .527, the junior has 24 extra base hit, including a team-high seven homers to go with 53 RBIs and 54 runs scored.

A total of nine Blue Devils are batting above .300. As a team, St. Marys is hitting at a .412 clip.

“Offensively, we can hit the ball,” Wilson said. “These kids eat and sleep baseball. They love to play.”

Magnolia’s quest to become state champions for the first time since 2006 when it claimed the Class AA title is still on track after the Blue Eagles escaped with a 3-1 win Monday at Wheeling Central.

Chandler Sapp’s seeing-eye single to right field drove in two runs and broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the seventh inning.

“Our offense had been pretty good up until Monday night,” Magnolia coach Dave Cisar said. “(Nicholas Naumann) pitched a solid game against us.”

With Magnolia starting pitcher Zach Willhoite throwing six solid innings against the Maroon Knights and improving to 4-1, the Blue Eagles have the luxury of choosing from one of three options against the Blue Devils. The candidates are Kyle Elliott (6-1), Chandler Sapp (8-2) and Tanner Hanna (5-0), and only Cisar knows which one will get the call.

“I used to tell the kid who was pitching the day before the game, but I don’t do that anymore,” Cisar said. “I’ve gone away from that because it just gives the kid a lot of butterflies.”