Dons back on top

STEUBENVILLE – Madonna rode the arm of Luca Fuscardo to a 3-2 victory over Bishop Donahue in the OVAC Class A championship game Saturday at Vacarro Field.

After a rough start, the senior lefty was dominant in the final three innings, retiring nine of the last 10 batters he faced. He allowed seven hits and fanned eight as the Blue Dons avenged a 2-1 loss to the Bishops in the 2013 conference title match.

“It was a great game,” said first-year Madonna coach Tim Provenzano. “Luca pitched an absolute gem. It was just a great outing by him. He threw a lot of pitches and got behind a lot of batters but he battled back.

“He’s a great senior leader for our team.”

Bishop Donahue got to Fuscardo for a single tally in the top of the first. Bryce Jones slapped a single to center and moved to second when Hunter Kaschke drew a walk. Alex Riedel plated Jones with a single to center.

The Blue Dons, who last captured an OVAC crown in 2010, did all its offensive damage in the bottom of the frame. Kaleb Baire worked Kaschke, Donahue’s pitching ace, for a free pass. Will Bowser drilled a double to deep right center allowed Baire to score. Ross Comis then rifled a single up the middle and it was 2-1 Madonna. Comis scampered home on a passed ball.

From that point forward, Kaschke silenced the Dons. He surrendered just two more hits (another Bowser double and a Michael Rogers single). Madonna did threaten in the fifth. Baire was safe at first on an error but was gunned down by Donahue catcher Riedel (he was backing up the play) trying to reach second. Bowser was thrown out by Riedel trying to steal third after his two-bagger.

“We’ve been trying to get past the point where we score three and kind of go down offensively,” Provenzano pointed out. “With a senior on the mound, however, and the leadership he showed, he just let his teammates know he had the game.

“This is third time we’ve played them but the first time they didn’t have Kaschke. I can’t say enough about him, he’s a great pitcher. He has beaten us two years in a row.”

The Donahue righty struck out five and was nicked for four hits.

“Hunter pitched a heck of a game for us,” stated Donahue boss Bob Kleeh. “We made some miscues out in the field and you just can’t do that against a team like Madonna. They are going to take advantage of it and they did. We played hard but it just didn’t work out today.”

Through the first four innings Donahue (9-8) sent 24 batters to the plate. The Bishops loaded the bases in the second with two outs but the threat ended on a Bowser catch in center. Donahue had the sacks juiced again in the third with just one out. Fuscardo, however, whiffed the next two hitters.

Kleeh’s club did score in the fourth. Jones belted a one-double to right. He scored on a Riedel single. Chase Truex followed with a base hit but again Fuscardo was able to slam the door. Donahue stranded 10 runners in the opening four frames and 11 for the game.

“In those situations, he (Fuscardo) just buckles down,” Provenzano said about his pitcher’s ability to survive jams. He knows the situations and shows his senior leadership.”

As Kleeh noted, Donahue just “didn’t take advantage of anything at the plate.”

“We left 11 on base, congratulations to Madonna,” he stated. “Luca is a heck of a pitcher. He struggled a little and we didn’t take advantage of it. He battled through it and got them the win.

“We didn’t get the hits when we needed them. You leave 11 out there against a team like Madonna and 3-2 is what you are going to get.”

The Dons, now 15-4, will return to the diamond Tuesday, visiting Beaver Local. They will host Toronto on Wednesday.

“We had goals entering the season and one was to win the OVAC,” Provenzano commented. “Now, our next goal is win the state.”