Two of the last three Steele and Cook Insurance Ohio Valley Baseball League champions are paired in the 2014 championship series.
Weirton, the 2011 titlist, will host defending champion Maynard Wednesday in Game 1 on Edwin J. Bowman Field in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Game 2 in the best-of-5 format is set for Friday night on the Firemen's Field diamond at the Community Park in Maynard. Both have 6 o'clock starts. Game 3 will be played Sunday in Weirton at 1 p.m., while Game 4, if necessary, is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday in Maynard. If a fifth, and deciding contest, is needed, it would be played in Weirton on Tuesday at 6.
Both entrants struggled to get out of the first round of the playoffs. The third-seeded Red Dons (19-7) needed three games - and extra innings - to defeat No. 6 Barton, while No. 4 seed Maynard (19-8) had to outlast fifth-seeded Jefferson County in three games - the last going a marathon 14 innings.
However, like good veteran teams do, both rebounded and swept their semifinal series as Maynard had its way with the top-seeded Wheeling Cardinals for the second consecutive season, and Weirton bounced No. 2 Lafferty in two games.
"I think this should be a very good series because you have two very good baseball teams competing," Maynard manager and league president Laney Simone Sr. said. "This is a good matchup."
The two teams split their two-game regular-season series, with each winning on the other's home field. The Red Dons won 3-1 on May 18, and Maynard claimed a 3-2 verdict on June 10.
Both squads have relied on solid pitching, steady hitting and its defense in reaching the finals.
"We've played Maynard tough every year we've been in the league," Weirton player/manager Rudy Nagy said. "They are always tough, but we are up for the challenge."
A breakdown by position follows:
PITCHING: Maynard has a solid rotation in righthanders Mark Cisar, Logan Hudson and Greyson Loweecy. Cisar, the wily veteran, pitched all 14 innings against Jefferson County and closed out the Cardinals last Thursday with two innings of relief. Hudson, a former Shadyside product, won the opener in the semifinals with the Cardinals. Loweecy, a St. Clairsville alum, pitched well for five innings Thursday before giving way to Cisar.
Weirton has been led by former Madonna standout Logan Linder, who is transferring to Point Park University in Pittsburgh from Niagara next season. He tossed a six-hitter in the clinching win over Lafferty Sunday. Tori Fuscardo, a lefty, has also been in the Red Dons' rotation, as been southpaw Darrin Heatherington, the full-time first baseman.
CATCHING: Maynard's Michael Androsko, another former Red Devil, has been coming on of late, evidenced by his long solo home run off former San Diego Padres' farmhand Noah Mull last week. He also had an RBI single in the same inning. Defensively, he has been praised by Cisar for his calling of games, while his arm is pretty strong and accurate.
Weirton's Seth Fluharty is a veteran of the OVBL and a one of several holdovers from the 2011 champions. He has been swinging a hot bat and has a cannon for an arm behind the plate.
FIRST BASE: Ryan Jarvie, a third St. C. product, has been a steady force offensively for the defending titlists. His left-handed bat is the only one in the starting lineup. Defensively, he has had trouble with throws in the dirt.
Heatherington, who played for his dad (Fred) at Steubenville Big Red, is solid all the way around. One of three left-handed hitters in the Red Dons lineup.
SECOND BASE: Maynard's Max Schimmel is a veteran of the OVBL, having played for the Bethany Brewers a few years ago. He is a baseball-smart player that does the little things that don't show up in the boxscores.
Weirton's Sammy Orr, an Indian Creek alumnus, has shown to be a very good No. 2 hitter and solid defender.
SHORTSTOP: Maynard's D.J. Busby is drawing looks from Major League scouts with his talents, according to West Liberty University head coach Eric Burkle. Another former St. Clairsville standout, Busby is the perfect leadoff hitter. An outstanding fielder, as well.
Chris Perna, a former Madonna performer, is a good hitter and fielder for the Red Dons. Steady and balanced.
THIRD BASE: Maynard's B.A. Holloway has been steady as ever, both in the field and at the plate. His three-run walkoff homer eliminated Jefferson County. Defensively, whether it be third base, the outfield or second base, he can play it. Loweecy has played third in the playoffs when Holloway is in the outfield.
Weirton's Rudy Nagy has been the Red Dons' unquestioned leader, both on and off the field. The former Red Rider all-stater is a hitting machine and is an above-average third baseman.
LEFT FIELD: Maynard has split time here between Dane Koch and Cory Kotopka, Martins Ferry and St. Clairsville products, respectively. Both bring good bats, strong arms in the outfield and speed on the bases.
Weirton's Steven Buffo is another one of those holdovers from 2011. The Red Dons' ace on the mound back then, he has been relegated to the outfield, but showed a strong arm in throwing out Lafferty's Jordan Barbina at the plate Sunday.
CENTER FIELD: Maynard splits this up between L. Hudson and Holloway. When Hudson pitches, Holloway mans this position. Hudson, being a pitcher, has a strong arm and has showed signs of being a good hitter.
Weirton's Greg Ashmead, a Steubenville Central product, has range and speed in the outfield. Not much of a threat at the plate.
RIGHT FIELD : Maynard's Cody Hudson started off like gangbusters at the plate, but an ankle injury has hobbled him for much of the second half of the season and playoffs.
Weirton's Dom Garay, another Big Red standout, is another one of those players that don't get a lot of accolades, but, like Schimmel, is a smart player.
BENCH: Maynard, depending on the night, might have three of four players on the bench. Meanwhile, I've only seen Weirton a limited number of times, and its bench has been slim.
I like Maynard's chances of repeating because of its core group of veteran players. They won a title last year and seem on a mission again. Maynard in four games.
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org