Another local team continued its recent run to the state tournament, as Valley gave Catholic everything it wanted in the semifinals.
The Greyhounds (23-8) tied the game at 5 by scoring twice in the top of the seventh, setting the stage for a late Irish rally in the bottom of the inning.
It ended the third straight trip to Power Park for Valley, which had lost its two previous games by a combined score of 20-2 to Moorefield and Wheeling Central.
While Greyhounds coach Joe Craffey was pleased to finally have his real team show up, he and his players were disappointed with dropping a close contest.
"From the standpoint of who we played, I thought we played better than we had before,'' Craffey said, "but to lose like this is a kick in the gut. This one hurts more than the first two.
"I was proud of them. They could've very easily quit playing when we're down two runs, but they showed their true grit and what they're made of. That's what got us back in the game - the fight in them. I told them I was proud of them for showing that and I appreciate everything they've done for us.''
Craffey insists that the Hounds aren't that far from duplicating Catholic's feat.
During the regular season, Valley beat ranked AA teams like Liberty Raleigh and Wyoming East as well as splitting with the Irish.
"We lose five good seniors and they mean a lot to us,'' Craffey said. "They were here on the first team that came and they pretty much laid the groundwork for where we're at now as a program.
"I don't know if it means anything to think of yourself as a quality Class A baseball program, but I'd like to think it does. I'd like to think we're there. We're up there with Charleston Catholic, with Magnolia, with Wheeling Central. I think when teams see us and talk about us, they can put us in the same breath.''
And as long as we're talking about banner years, how about a little shout-out for the Gazette's state ratings?
For the last six years, the Gazette's exclusive weekly rankings have been the only listing of the top teams in West Virginia, since apathy led to the dissolution of the state sportswriters poll and the state coaches association poll.
But the Gazette rankings were really spot-on this spring.
Two No. 1 teams in the final ratings - Hedgesville (AAA) and Hoover (AA) - captured titles and the other state champion, Charleston Catholic, was ranked No. 2. However, the Irish were the No. 1 team in the season's first set of rankings on March 24.
The last set of rankings pegged the finalists in both AA (No. 1 Hoover vs. No. 2 Fairmont Senior) and A (No. 1 Magnolia vs. No. 2 Catholic). In AAA, it was No. 1 Hedgesville against No. 5 Cabell Midland.
In fact, if you use the pre-state tournament ratings as seeds, the higher-ranked teams went 8-1 at Power Park, with only Catholic's victory in the single-A title game bucking the trend.
In the first ratings that came out 10 weeks ago today, two AAA state tournament teams were highly thought of (No. 3 Hedgesville, No. 5 Parkersburg South) despite the fact the former hadn't been to the state tournament since 1974 and the latter since 1987. The other tournament teams, Midland and Woodrow Wilson, who started out 4-5 and 0-4, respectively, were unranked as Huntington was the early frontrunner in the first list.
In AA, three of the four state tournament teams were ranked 1-2-3 in the early season ratings (Fairmont Senior, Bridgeport, Hoover), with Independence the leading Region 3 entry at No. 8 despite Wyoming East being the defending state champion.
And in single-A, Catholic was No. 1, with the other tournament teams all represented as well - Magnolia No. 5, Valley No. 6 and Notre Dame No. 8.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.