You can't get any tighter than a one-run victory, and that's the margin by which both Charleston Catholic and Valley emerged with Class A sectional wins over the weekend.
The Irish outlasted Man 6-5 in Region 4 Section 2 Saturday afternoon at Chapmanville, several hours after Valley eliminated Fayetteville 7-6 late Friday night in Region 3 Section 2 at Oak Hill.
All four teams in those games had already taken one loss, so postseason fortunes were hanging by a thread.
Catholic (27-7), the No. 2 team in the Gazette's state ratings, were in a precarious position after the No. 8 Hillbillies scored five times in the bottom of the fifth for a 5-2 lead, but rallied with four runs of their own in the top of the sixth to go up 6-5.
The Irish got their lead run when courtesy runner Sam McKown scored from third after the ball went to the backstop during a suicide squeeze bunt attempt. The pitch was high and inside, and batter Dominic Rendinell got out of the way.
Another stroke of luck - accomplished a day earlier - played into the hands of the Irish for the seventh.
Andy Hoyer, one of Catholic's two ace pitchers, was available for one inning of work because he'd only gone six innings the previous day in a 10-0 Catholic win over Man at Logan.
The only reason Hoyer had that one inning of availability was because his battery mate, catcher Drew Cable, slugged a three-run triple in the top of the sixth on Friday that gave the Irish a 10-run lead to shorten the game to six innings.
"That allowed Andy to be eligible, and it was key,'' said coach Bill Mehle.
Using that one inning judiciously, Hoyer retired the Hillbillies 1-2-3 in the seventh on Saturday to lock up the win and the sectional crown. Two of his outs came by strikeout.
The white-knuckle win sends the Irish into the Region 4 finals against Wahama next week. (There are no semifinal games in Class A Regions 3 and 4 because of a lack of teams to fill out those regions following recent consolidations).
The Catholic-Wahama game is set for March 24 at the University of Charleston's Triana Field, but that is also the night of Charleston Catholic's baccalaureate, so the Irish may request a change of date.
Following a close call with another ranked team, Mehle also wants the SSAC to look at ways at changing the format for teams advancing to regional play.
"You had two competitive teams [in the sectional], and it's a shame there's no format so both can get to that next level,'' he said.
"Charleston Catholic and Man played for a sectional title in basketball, then played in the first round of the state tournament. We've petitioned the SSAC to set up a similar format for baseball, so that two quality teams - if not more - can reach the regional. They want to limit the state tournament to four teams, and we think that's a disservice to the quality teams in our region.''
The Greyhounds (24-8) had to return to Bluefield two days later to beat Montcalm, then went late into the night at Oak Hill Friday, needing to beat Fayetteville twice in order to advance.
Valley won the first game 17-6, then held on for a 7-6 victory in the nightcap.