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Catholic tops Capital 7-6, runs win streak to 8

Kenny Kemp
Charleston Catholic's Russell Miller lays down a bunt in the second inning against Capital.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Catholic seems to have snapped out of its slump in a big way.

Even when they don't play at the top of their game, as they did at times in Thursday evening's 7-6 win at Capital, the Irish still manage to rack up another victory.

Catholic boosted its current win streak to eight games despite committing four errors, uncorking a pair of wild pitches and also hitting two batters. Half of the Cougars' six runs were unearned.

"We'll take the win over a triple-A crosstown rival,'' said Catholic coach Bill Mehle, "even though we didn't play very sharply.

"We've been having real quality plate approaches [during the win streak] but people got outside of themselves tonight. Not everybody went after the best pitch in the sequence and we put ourselves in a hole. But we executed enough to get the 'W.' We had some quality bunts when we needed them to put runners in scoring position.''

Connor Golden drove in three runs for the Irish (20-8), including a two-run double during a four-run uprising in the top of the fourth inning that made it 6-2 after Capital had tied it at 2 in the bottom of the third.

Thad Jameson (2 for 3), the No. 9 hitter for Catholic, also delivered a two-run hit in the fourth and was the only Irish player with multiple hits. Andy Hoyer worked six innings to get the win and Vince Stricker closed it out, but allowed two runs in the seventh.

Catholic, the No. 6 team in the Gazette's Class A state ratings, wasn't as overwhelming against the Cougars as it had been previously this week - bombarding Wahama 25-3 and Williamstown 15-1 - but certainly was much better than it looked during an extended midseason slump that saw the Irish lose three in a row and seven of 13.

"Andy didn't have his best stuff by far,'' Mehle said, "and he didn't pitch ahead a lot, but even when our pitcher doesn't have his best stuff - and our defense made a couple more miscues than we're used to - we can still win. We had been playing at a high level defensively, making zero, one or two errors over the last number of games, and playing a lot of games in a row to maintain that mental sharpness day in and day out.

"It's a good win that puts us at 20 wins on the season. We coaches talked coming into the season that against the strength of schedule we had, if we could win 20 games this year, it means we're playing pretty well.''

Meanwhile, the setback marked the eighth one-run loss of the season for the Cougars (13-17), or about half of their total losses.

"You can look at it in one of two ways,'' said Capital coach Robert Massey. "One, we're battled-tested or, two, we'll find a way to lose. One way or the other. You take those losses and split them in half and we're a .500 ballclub. We're getting there.

"To be honest, two years ago we graduated everybody and brought back this pack as sophomores. They played all year and we took our lumps [going 11-22] and this year, we've gotten better. We're in every game. We're not getting 10-runned - we've only been 10-runned twice. Our pitching has been strong all year, but right now our defense is not playing very good, and that's not a good thing going into sectional play.''

Six of the seven Irish runs were unearned, including all four in the fourth inning.

"That's not just a recipe for success,'' Massey said. "You're not going to win any baseball games.''

Austin Hupp and Jacob Williams each went 2 for 4 for Capital, Justin Palmer added an RBI double and Anthony Gavin smacked an RBI triple in the seventh as the Cougars tallied twice to shave their deficit to one run. Gavin also made a fine defensive play in the sixth, leaping to snag a liner to third.

Catholic hopes its midseason swoon, in which it was held to two or fewer runs five times, is well in the rearview mirror. The Irish are averaging 11.3 runs during their win streak.

"We all go through our growing pains during the season,'' Golden said, "and we're just hitting our stride at the right time. We're really coming together and playing together as a team. We're putting good swings on good pitches, playing solid defense and our pitching has been outstanding.

"This has definitely been one of the biggest schedules we've played. We didn't have a real good middle of the season, but we've overcome our adversity. When we come together and do all the little things right, which is what we pride ourselves on, that contributes to us winning 20 games this year.''

Before the game, a moment of silence was observed for former Kanawha Valley coach and educator Bill McCoy, who died on Monday.

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

 


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