FALLING ROCK, W.Va. -- It didn't resemble many of Herbert Hoover's games this year, but it still gets the Huskies where they wanted to be all along - back at Appalachian Power Park.
Cody Bowen went the distance on a five-hitter Friday evening and Corey Bird ran wild on the bases to lead host Hoover to a 4-2 victory over Wayne in the Class AA Region 4 finals at Jeff Holliday Field.
The win sends the Huskies (29-3), the No. 1 team in the Gazette's state rankings, into a return engagement at next week's state tournament at Power Park. Hoover takes on No. 6 Independence (20-8) at approximately 7:15 p.m. on Thursday.
The Huskies fell to Wyoming East 1-0 in eight innings in last year's AA title game.
Friday's contest wasn't the pushover a lot of people were expecting, since Wayne (13-16) had dropped regular-season games to Hoover by scores of 14-2 and 18-2 - two of 18 games in which the Huskies invoked the mercy rule to shorten games.
In fact, a two-run homer by Zack Cassidy in the top of the seventh inning sliced the Huskies' lead in half and made for a few anxious moments. Bowen (6-1), however, wriggled out of the jam to complete the game without any further damage.
"It's one of those things,'' said Hoover coach Brian Young. "It's baseball. It happens. It seemed to happen to us last year. We left the ball up, it's a mistake, and their kid took advantage of it. We buckled back down and did what we had to do.''
Bowen entered the top of the seventh holding a seemingly comfortable 4-0 lead. At that point, he'd struck out five, walked none and allowed just two singles - one a bunt - and had faced just one batter over the minimum of 18 and thrown only 48 pitches.
But the first three batters for the Pioneers rapped hits in the seventh - Mikey Perry singled, Cassidy launched the ball over the left-field fence and Joey Williamson singled. Young elected to keep Bowen on the mound, however, and was rewarded when the next three batters made outs.
"In the regular season, it's really hard to judge a team like I've got,'' said Pioneers coach Todd Ross, "when you're not very deep in pitching, and you've got to gauge your week by when you want to throw your best pitchers. Sometimes you get lopsided scores and some different victories, but we had a lot of confidence when Mikey's on the hill and when our shortstop, Kodie Bowen, throws.''