Bumpy opening innings haunt Ravenswood in title game

Ravenswood shortstop Nic Taylor shadows Charleston Catholic's Trae Swisher at second base in preparation of a pick-off attempt during the Irish's 8-2 Class A state championship game win over the Red Devils Saturday at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston. Photo by Joe Albright.

CHARLESTON — Ravenswood spotted Charleston Catholic a big lead early, but unlike against Tygarts Valley Thursday in the semifinal couldn’t come back from the deficit in the Class A state championship game Saturday.

The third-seeded Irish jumped on top of Red Devil starter Chase Swain for the championship-clinching runs in the first two innings. Bill Mehley’s team put up crooked numbers in the first and second on the way to an 8-2 championship game victory.

Catholic’s Luke McKown began the game with a double, advanced to third on a bunt by Michael Martin, and then came home on Trae Swisher’s sacrifice bunt for a 1-0 Irish lead.

Brandon Combs made the second out of the inning, but John Hufford put the lead at 2-0 after an RBI single through the shortstop-third base hole to plate Martin.

“That has been a stickler with us,” said Red Devil head coach Wes Swain when asked about a shaky first inning for the second game in a row. “If we can get out of the first inning, it seems like everyone settles in. We brought them down to watch Marshall play, but it is different when you are here playing. We aren’t here year in and year out and it is hard to prepare them for what is about to happen.

The Ravenswood baseball team poses with the runner-up trophy Saturday at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston. Photo by Joe Albright.

“Then you add on top of all of it that it is the state championship and there is a lot of pressure on young kids. I am super proud of them and they did everything I asked them to do this year and they are to be commended.”

The pressure got worse in the second inning. Three walks and a passed ball with no outs in the top of the frame put the Irish in business again.

A pair of RBI sacrifice flies from Martin and Swisher put the “visiting team” up by four runs. McKown, who scored four runs on the afternoon, picked up his second after a two-out triple from Brandon Combs and made it 5-0.

“I thought about pulling Chase after two,” said the elder Swain. “He has had some bad luck in a couple of games and I thought he threw the ball well, but it came down to where I wanted to get the rising junior some experience and get him the feel of what it feels like.”

Charleston Catholic scored two more off Swain in the fourth, before Nic Taylor took over with one out. The senior promptly shut down the Irish over the next 1.2 innings.

Meanwhile, Ravenswood’s bats went to work and finally broke through in the fifth inning when Blake Bennett’s two-out RBI single plated Stephen Dawson. Dawson got on with a one-out double to left field.

Two Ravenswood errors in the top of the sixth contributed to the final two runs of the game for the Irish. A throwing mistake from Red Devil third baseman Nate Curtis put Martin on first, who then advanced to second and third after right fielder Brennan Barr had trouble recovering the ball.

He scored after a passed ball walk to Hufford.

McKown also scored his third run of the afternoon on the E9.

Curtis jumped on a 2-1 pitch for a lead-off triple in the Red Devils’ half of the sixth. Lakin Tucker brought the senior home one batter later on a sacrifice fly to Catholic right fielder Nick Wentz.

Ravenswood never stopped fighting all afternoon. The Red Devils left runners on base every inning except the third. Unfortunately, balls hit to try and drive them in ended up in the gloves of Irish defenders.

“They have been a great group of kids and have been really resilient,” saidWes Swain when asked about the heart of his team. “We train them a lot in the offseason and this is easy for us. It is harder on me than it is on them.”

Tucker, Curtis and Miciah Kennedy were named to the all-tournament teams for their efforts over the last two games.

The Red Devils end the season at 23-11 and lose just three seniors to graduation.