Charleston Catholic's return to the state baseball tournament traveled a road of familiar foes.First, there were Man and Van in the sectionals, teams that the Irish registered three wins against in the regular season. In the Region 4 final, Catholic beat Wahama for the third time.And now, the Class A No. 2 Irish see another recognizable opponent, Class A No. 3 Madonna. Those teams meet at about 7:45 p.m. Friday in the second Class A semifinal at Appalachian Power Park.The Irish (29-8) and the Blue Dons (23-9) met April 12 in the West Virginia Catholic Schools Classic Tournament in Parkersburg, with Madonna winning 9-8 in eight innings."None of our pitchers had hit their best form yet," Charleston Catholic coach Bill Mehle recalled from his team's first battle with the Blue Dons. "They had jumped up 6-1 on us before we managed to get back into the game."After the Irish tied the game and took an 8-7 lead in the top of the eighth, Madonna senior Logan Linder hit a home run to win it. Linder, who started the game on the mound, went 4-for-5 with four RBIs."[Linder] threw the ball pretty hard the first time we saw him," said Mehle. "We're prepared to see him once again.
"I saw Madonna's regional final against Parkersburg Catholic last week and I can say that they are a very well-coached team. We anticipate them putting the ball in play and playing some solid defense. We feel that we are pretty evenly matched up against them."Rocco Wilcox and Drew Cable each drove in two runs for the Irish in the first matchup."We started to kick the ball around in our game against Charleston Catholic," said Madonna coach Jeff Baire. "We had the 6-1 lead before they came back. We ended up winning, but it led to an eight-game stretch of us not paying attention to fundamentals or not making plays when we needed to."The winner will face the survivor of the Valley-East Hardy semifinal in the Class A championship, the last of Saturday's games with an approximate start time of 4 p.m. The Irish went 2-0 against Valley this season, but did not face East Hardy."We have several players returning from last year's runner-up team. We have our eyes on the prize," said Mehle. "We're focused on Madonna, but we're also keeping in mind that there is less than 24 hours between that game and the state championship game.We feel fortunate to return to Power Park again this year."Reach Dave Miller at 304-348-1749 or firstname.lastname@example.org.