Prep baseball: Irish get hoped-for result in tuneup
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A postseason tune-up game isn't supposed to count for much, but it doesn't hurt when the coach sees what he was hoping to see.
Charleston Catholic handed Herbert Hoover a 14-9 Memorial Day defeat at Triana Field on Monday before a cookout ensued beyond left field.
The game itself, however, was a picnic for the Irish.
Charleston Catholic (28-9) took advantage of eight Hoover errors in its victory, but more importantly, the hosts felt ready for Friday's Class A State Tournament semifinal game with Valley-Fayette, which will begin at approximately 7:30 p.m.
"All games matter in terms of learning how to compete in different situations," said Mehle, whose team is making its seventh State Tournament appearance on Friday. "We don't put as much stock in the score or the final outcome of the game as how well we executed.
"A lot of our plate appearances were high-quality at bats, being able to know what your job is in different situations and executing it."
The victory sends Catholic into the State Tournament with 16 wins in its last 17 games, including a 9-1 victory over Valley on April 3. The win avenged an 11-8 Irish loss to the Greyhounds (23-7) on April 18 at Smithers.
Valley has won 12 of its last 14 games, and was without two of its starters for part of its loss to Charleston Catholic. Senior Arik McGinnis - the probable starting pitcher in Friday's semifinal and Valley's best player - left with a thumb injury. Also, John Riddle, a .411 batter with 21 RBI, left the game with a hip flexor.
"I don't know that it means that much because you lost most recently (in the season series)," Valley Coach Joe Craffey said. "For the most part, it was a close game. What concerns me is are we going to play any better this year when we get to the State Tournament than we have."
The Irish are coming off two consecutive State Tournament appearances, reaching the title game for the first time in 2011 before falling 14-7 to Wheeling Central. Last year, Catholic fell 6-1 eventual state champion Madonna.
Valley also is making its third straight trip, getting outscored 20-2 in back-to-back semifinal losses to Wheeling Central (2011) and East Hardy (2012).
Both teams will have experience in the lineup. Catholic pitcher Kiefer Hovorka started in the 2011 state title game and in last year's semifinal defeat.
His record is just 6-4, but the senior has a 1.37 earned run average and 76 strikeouts in 611/3 innings. If the Irish doesn't start Hovorka, the ball will likely go to another senior, Andy Hoyer. Hoyer leads the team in victories (9-1) and strikeouts (77). However, he also has received less run support than Hovorka, with the Irish scoring 30 runs in Hoyer's 572/3 innings, compared to just 19 in Hovorka's 611/3.
Hovorka and McGinnis are a combined 0-3 in the State Tournament. Mehle said he hasn't decided who will start, although Hovorka threw six innings in Irish's victory over Valley, and the Greyhounds have not batted against Hoyer this season.
As for McGinnis, he'll be playing in his third State Tournament game, while taking the loss in last year's semifinal defeat.
"From an experience standpoint, I think that helps him," Craffey said. "Once the game starts, you can throw that out the window. Then, it's all about who hits the ball and who fields the ball, but if you get a kid on that stage, he's more accustomed to it maybe than some other kids."
McGinnis didn't pitch in either game against Catholic. He has a 4-3 record with 94 strikeouts and 28 walks in 48 innings to go with a 2.62 earned run average.
The senior, who plays shortstop when he isn't pitching, is batting .474 with 45 RBI and 43 runs.
"When you get to this stage, of course, everything is magnified, especially in baseball," Craffey said. "If you make an error, the ball's going to find you 99 percent of the time. Then, it boils down to, are you going to step up and field the next one or pout, stay in the hole and let the next one eat you up."
The winner Friday's second semifinal game will play for the championships at approximately 1 p.m. Saturday against the winner of the first between Magnolia and Notre Dame.
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THE RESULTS weren't quite as attractive for Hoover after Monday's loss to Charleston Catholic.
The Huskies committed eight errors in the loss, which ended a seven-game winning streak for the 2012 Class AA runners-up.
That's the last game Hoover will play before meeting Independence (19-8) in Friday's Class AA state semifinal game at approximately 7 p.m. at Appalachian Power Park.
"It definitely worries you," said Hoover Coach Brian Young about his team's performance on Monday. "We didn't get better today and that's why you schedule these games.
"Those are things you expect in week one, not the last week. We definitely have some work to do the next couple days."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at email@example.com or 304-348-4837.