CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two teams that have caught fire at the end of the season square off tonight in Winfield with a Class AAA state tournament berth on the line.Cabell Midland (22-10), the No. 6 team in the Gazette's state ratings, visits Winfield (15-16) at 6:30 in the Region 4 finals.The Knights, who knocked off top-ranked Hurricane 1-0 in Monday's regional semifinals, bring a nine-game win streak into the game, while the upstart Generals have won five of their last six, including a 5-0 blanking of No. 9 Logan on Monday."Midland is a lot like us,'' said Winfield coach Will Isaacs. "They put the ball in play, they like to bunt and run the bases. They're not afraid to bunt with one out or two outs and they play defense. I really like how Midland plays, and we try to be the same.''The Knights began the season 2-5 but have rebounded to again become one of the state's top teams. Part of the reason for the slow start may have been the fact that the returning cast included just four seniors."We played good off and on,'' Midland coach Tracy Brumfield said of the early problems. "We'd play good for three or four games, then all of a sudden we had no clue."This is one of the closest groups of kids we've had here. This group does everything together and as the season went on it helped them get better. We told them it matters at the end of the season and you want to learn from your mistakes as you go on. Keep peaking and hopefully we won't make those same mistakes, and they bought into it.''The two teams have met twice this season, with hot-starting Winfield winning the first meeting 8-2 and the Knights capturing a 10-0 victory the second time around.The Generals have recovered from losing ace pitcher Mason Dillon during the first half of the season to stand just one win away from a spot in the May 30-June 1 state tournament at Power Park."What more could you ask for?'' Isaacs said. "With the changes we had in our team about a third of the way through the season and the adversity that we had, but to get one game from getting to the state tournament? We just want to come out, have a good practice and compete and try to be us - not try to do too much. This is what athletics is about, being able to overcome some adversity, get better as the season goes on and have a chance. And that's all you can ask for.
"If we come out and do the things we think we can do, then who knows? But we'll sure take it. It's better than the alternative.''Another regional title game involving a Kanawha Valley team at 6:30 tonight finds Riverside playing at Woodrow Wilson in the Region 3 finals.nn
A pair of state-ranked Class A teams battle at 5 p.m. today in the Region 4 finals at Marshall Field in Parkersburg.Charleston Catholic (26-9), the No. 4 team in the Gazette state ratings, takes on No. 10 Parkersburg Catholic (20-12).In the teams' only meeting in the regular season, the Irish won 10-5 on April 16 at the University of Charleston's Triana Field."They were a little depleted then,'' Charleston Catholic coach Bill Mehle said of the Crusaders. "It was the end of the week. We know they're a very good baseball club and it's going to be a really competitive game. We have to play them on their field. We have a day to get ready for them, and we'll be ready.''
The Crusaders began the season in high gear, winning their first eight games and rising as high as No. 5 in the state rankings. A midseason lull, however, has been followed by a late-season rush, and they toppled two ranked teams in the postseason - Williamstown in the sectionals and No. 2 Gilmer County in the regional semifinals."We scouted the Parkersburg Catholic-Williamstown [sectional final game],'' Mehle said, "and out of 21 outs, I believe Williamstown hit 15 fly balls. We've been practicing how to hit line drives, hit the ball down. You hit the ball down and hard, good things can happen. You've got to keep the ball out of the air."We're going to get good pitching, we're going to play good defense. It's a question of whether we're going to execute at the plate.''Doug Smock and Ryan Pritt contributed to this report. Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.