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Charleston Catholic baseball punches ticket to states

DAVISVILLE - It took quite a few miles to accomplish, but Charleston Catholic successfully navigated the road to the state tournament - and, somewhat fittingly, is rewarded with its shortest trip of the entire postseason.

Senior first baseman Nelson McKown had three hits and drove in five runs Wednesday afternoon to lead the Irish to a 10-3 victory over Parkersburg Catholic in the Class A Region 4 finals at Marshall Field.

"I was just trying to see the ball well and hit it,'' McKown said, "and just try to get something started for our team. We needed a little jumpstart offensively.''

The win qualifies the Irish (27-9) for the state tournament, which begins May 30 at Appalachian Power Park. It marks the eighth such venture in 12 years for Charleston Catholic, which can hardly be called a trip since the ballpark rests less than two-thirds of a mile from the high school.

But the Irish needed to log frequent traveler miles to get there, winning sectional games at Buffalo and Hurricane after persistent rains washed away nearly every date set for Triana Field, then drove to Point Pleasant and greater Parkersburg to nail down regional victories.

On Wednesday, Kiefer Hovorka went the distance for the Irish, allowing all three Crusader runs in the third after he'd already been staked to a comfortable 8-0 lead. He struck out nine and walked only one.

McKown had his biggest postseason game yet, going 3 for 3 - doubling in a run in the first, singling home two more in the second, lofting a sacrifice fly in the third and blasting a solo homer in the fifth.

"It feels pretty good to come through like that,'' McKown said. "Nothing but smiles here. But it's not just me. Kiefer had a pretty good performance. He led us - just get on base and drive him in.''

Connor Golden drove in two runs for the Irish, the No. 4 team in the Gazette's Class A state ratings. Golden and Sam McKown, Nelson's younger brother, each drew bases-loaded walks off Crusaders starter Mitch Davis during a five-run second.

Golden later added an RBI single and two more runs crossed on errors by the Crusaders, who committed three miscues in the field.

"We got off to a rough start and made a few mistakes,'' said Crusaders coach Tom Harvey, "and they pounced on it like a good team does. We just buried ourselves too deep. We tried to come back. We fought. But against them, they're solid everywhere and rarely are they going to give up a lead like that.''

Parkersburg Catholic (20-13), the state's No. 10 team, has lost in the regional finals two straight years, falling to Madonna in 2012.

Charleston Catholic will play today's Region 3 winner, either Valley or Fayetteville, in the state tournament semifinals at approximately 12:45 p.m. on Friday, May 31.

Irish coach Bill Mehle felt his well-traveled and veteran squad would give him a solid effort on Wednesday.

"We didn't seem to be nervous,'' Mehle said. "They're a pretty loose bunch. They're a very competitive bunch, so we came in with a lot of confidence. They've been in a lot of situations over the course of the season and these guys have been in a lot of situations over their high school careers. So we talk about never getting too up or too down, just trying to play with an even keel.

"We knew we were going to get a solid pitching performance and we had a solid defense behind Kiefer, and Kiefer did an excellent job. We knew from having played Parkersburg Catholic and watched them a couple of other times that if we can keep the bottom of the order off base for Mitch Davis and Jake Ullman and those guys, you've got a chance to compete with them, and we were pretty successful at that.''

Hitters five through nine in the Crusaders' order were a combined 1 of 15.

Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazette.com.


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