Trip to Charleston has Cougars dancing

June 01, 2006|by DAN KAUFFMAN

As the only varsity baseball coach Jefferson has ever had, John Lowery has enjoyed a charmed career, guiding the Cougars to eight West Virginia Class AAA state titles, including last year's crown.

Without question, this year's team has had a charmed season. The Cougars had to, or else they wouldn't even be heading to Charleston to defend their championship.

The Cougars (33-5) face South Charleston at Appalachian Power Park this evening following the other semifinal between Cabell Midland and Fairmont Senior at 4:30 p.m. The winners will meet in the championship game Saturday at 11 a.m.

"We're just glad to be down there again," Lowery said Monday.

Truthfully, they're also very fortunate to be making the trip. Jefferson's road to Charleston was not close to as easy as the Cougars made the regular season appear in going 28-4.


Hedgesville snapped Jefferson's 41-game winning streak against in-state opponents with a 5-4 win in Game 1 of the best-of-3 Region II Section 2 championship series. After winning Game 2 on the road 8-3, the Cougars broke the Eagles' hearts by scoring the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning in a 6-5 victory in Game 3.

The speed bumps didn't end there. Jefferson's Brian Collins locked into a pitching duel with Bridgeport's Chris Enourato in the Region II final, striking out 13 to keep the Cougars in it. A balk call on Enourato in the seventh inning gave Jefferson a 1-0 victory and a ticket to the state semis.

"Both those teams took us to the wire simply because they were good teams themselves," Lowery said. "We were very fortunate in each situation to get a key break. We've been very fortunate to be able to advance in a couple games that could have gone both ways. In Bridgeport, you could cut the tension in the air, there was so much riding on each pitch."

Collins will be on the mound today against South Charleston, which likely will send its ace, Arik Sikula, to the hill. Sikula has struck out 100 in 57 innings, meaning Collins - who has fully recovered from an upper quadriceps strain in his left leg - will have to be on his game.

"I would imagine we're going to see a whole lot of (Sikula)," Lowery said. "He's a lot like the kid we faced from Bridgeport, but this time of year, that's what you're going to see is good pitching. We feel like we've seen good pitching throughout the season. ... (Collins) had that leg injury, but that 10-day break we had (before regionals), he was able to get some rest and quality rehab, and he's recovered now."

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