CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After several empty trips to the state baseball tournament, the luck of the Irish finally arrived for Charleston Catholic. It just had to show some patience.
And patience made all the difference as Irish hitters drew 10 walks, survived six pitching changes between four Magnolia pitchers and just outlasted a furious seventh-inning Blue Eagles rally to score a memorable 9-8 win in the Class A state championship game Saturday afternoon at Appalachian Power Park.
The title was Catholic's first in baseball, but getting the monkey off its back didn't turn out to be as easy as it seemed when the Irish held a 9-2 lead after 51/2 innings.
Magnolia struck for three runs in the sixth to draw within 9-5 and Catholic starter Kiefer Hovorka ran out of innings at that point, yielding to reliever Rocco Wilcox.
Wilcox walked the only two batters he faced in the bottom of the seventh and Connor Golden walked two more, allowed three runs to cross the plate and faced a two-out, two-on situation with the tying run on second base and the winning run on first before getting a lineout to shortstop Hovorka to end it, setting off a mass celebration at the mound.
Hovorka, after snaring the final out, led the charge, running to the mound to tackle Golden.
"We came through - we made it interesting but we found a way to win," Catholic coach Bill Mehle said.
Mehle was making his eighth appearance in the state tournament in 12 years, but had been just 1-7 there before Friday's semifinal win over Valley.
In an almost cruel twist of fate, Mehle had to watch as Fairmont Senior fell to 0-7 in championship games under coach Steve Naternicola in the Class AA title game prior to Catholic's triumph.
"I'd lie if I said it didn't cross my mind," Mehle laughed as he spoke about the Class AA game. "But we felt really confident. The guys are a loose group of guys and they handle themselves under pressure really well. We said before this game, 'We know we will find a way to win this game.'"
Wilcox, who didn't throw a strike in walking both batters he faced, could barely speak at all through tears after the game.
"I was so tired I couldn't throw a strike," Wilcox said. "Then Connor comes in and shuts them down - I'm so happy right now. Words can't describe it, I'm so happy."
But it was the early cushion Catholic (30-9) built that allowed for that happy ending. The Irish struck for five runs over the first four innings, but collected only two hits.
The difference was drawing six walks and taking advantage of a couple of Magnolia wild pitches.