By Rick Farlow, The Charleston Gazette-Mail
Charleston Catholic starting pitcher Jonah DiCocco was on another level on Tuesday night.
The freshman right-hander struck out 18 to help the homestanding Irish down Greater Beckley Christian 8-1 in the Class A Region 3 best-of-three series opener at Shawnee Sports Complex.
Charleston Catholic (15-16) will travel to Greater Beckley Christian (3-26) for Game 2 of the series at 6 p.m. Wednesday. A win sends the Irish back to the state tournament in Charleston.
“Jonah is the real deal, he’s a good solid pitcher all the way around,” Catholic coach Will Bobinger said. “He’s got a nice curveball, he’s got a good fastball. Good zone recognition. For a freshman that’s tremendous.”
DiCocco allowed just one earned run on two hits over seven innings and surpassed 100 strikeouts on the season (113) as he earned the win.
After striking out the side to start the game, DiCocco provided a spark to the Irish offense in the bottom of the first.
Luke Blaydes was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and advanced to second on a Gage Tawney sacrifice bunt. With one on and one out, DiCocco ripped a double to left-center field to drive in the game’s first run.
Michael Ferrell then drove in a run with a triple and Ferrell scored the game’s third run on a wild pitch. The Irish had a 3-0 lead after the first.
DiCocco struck out five of the next six batters he faced in the second and third and the Irish added two more runs in the bottom of the third.
DiCocco reached first on a throwing error by the Greater Beckley third baseman, Ferrell walked and the runners advanced to second and third on a wild pitch. Gannon Morris then hit a sacrifice fly to center to drive in the fourth Catholic run.
Later in the inning, Tyler Brown drove in Ferrell in with a single to give the Irish a 5-0 advantage after three innings.
Greater Beckley got to DiCocco in the top of the fourth. Hunter Crist hit a one-out single and was driven in by a Reece Patterson triple and the Crusaders were on the board.
DiCocco came back to strike out the next two batters and keep the score at 5-1.
The Irish got two runs right back in the bottom of the fourth. Tawney walked with one out, DiCocco singled and the runners moved to second and third on a wild pitch. Ferrell then walked to load the bases and Morris ripped a two-run single to give the Irish a 7-1 advantage.
Charleston Catholic added another run in the bottom of the sixth and DiCocco struck out five of the last six hitters he faced as Catholic came away with the win.
The Irish outhit the Crusaders 8-2 and Greater Beckley Christian committed five errors.
At the plate, DiCocco was 2 for 4 with an RBI, Ferrell was 2 for 2 with an RBI, Morris was 2 for 3 with three RBIs and Brown was 2 for 3 with an RBI.
“We’ve gotta get some strikes out of our pitchers tomorrow,” Bobinger said. “Hopefully we can do the job there. Their field is quite a bit different than our field. They’ve got some real short fences so we’ve gotta keep the guys focused on hitting line drives instead of hitting home runs.”
Morris will be the starting pitcher for the Irish on Wednesday as the Irish try to clinch a state tournament berth.