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Small approach to a big achievement

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Wesleyan's Josh Tolman (5) meets Devin Stanton at home plate after he scores during a recent game. The Wolves will play for a chance at their third straight state title starting Friday.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Wesleyan's Josh Tolman (5) meets Devin Stanton at home plate after he scores during a recent game. The Wolves will play for a chance at their third straight state title starting Friday.

Mike Shaheen waited until Wesleyan reached the semifinals to bring up history.

The Wolves' head baseball coach didn't want to put unneeded pressure on his team too early, but once Wesleyan advanced far enough in the state tournament, the time came.

"I told the guys a week ago, we have an opportunity to win three (state titles) in a row," Shaheen said. "They can etch their names in stone for a long time."

Shaheen knows the state's history. He knows only nine teams have won three consecutive state baseball championships. The most recent team to rattle off three titles was Greenbrier in the late '90s. The first team to complete the feat was Richmond Academy when it ripped off six straight in the 1950s.

"We can be that 10th team that will always be forever known," Shaheen said. "It can do amazing things for the notoriety of our program. The win three in a row is amazing."

More than any other sport, baseball thrives on consistency. It relies on statistics to tell its stories because numbers over time demonstrate true ability over brilliant flashes. Three titles in a row is a high school team equivalent of the big-league's Triple Crown or a .400 season batting average.

Yet as much as baseball defines itself by the big picture it is as much a daily struggle with highs and lows oscillating with each game, with each at-bat. It is the micro approach Wesleyan turned to the day after clinching a berth in the Class A state finals with a sweep of Brookstone.

"They are thinking about winning a baseball game, two baseball games," Shaheen said. "A lot of that stuff is good to talk about ahead of time. When it gets down to it, we are not thinking about that."

Shaheen traveled with members of his staff to Augusta on Tuesday to scout Game 3 of the Aquinas-Walker series to see first-hand who the Wolves would face in the finals series starting Friday night. With a 12-7 win, Wesleyan will travel to Augusta for the first two games Friday and, if needed, a clinching game Saturday, against Aquinas.

Shaheen said a pitching rotation decision would come later in the week once he evaluated his staff.

For the second straight year, Wesleyan heads to the state finals on one day extra res. It's an advantage Shaheen wishes was not as dramatic. With Tuesday's Game 3, the Aquinas pitching staff will come to Friday's game on just three days rest. Wesleyan's whole staff will have at least four.

"To play the semis and the finals in the same week, on three days rest, it's a liability to the pitchers' arms," Shaheen said. "Teams aren't at full strength. There is a chance (Aquinas threw) a Game 1 starter as a reliever today because they are playing for their lives.

"The last two years it's helped us. It's helped in a major way. Why not have teams in the championship be at their best?"

Coming off a 13 strikeout complete game by Devin Stanton and seven home runs in two games against Brookstone, Wesleyan seems at its best. Like its first title in this stretch, this is a senior heavy Wolves' team with 10 graduating players. Most played on the two previous title teams, but Stanton and Conor Welton are the only three-year starters.

Only the seniors practiced Tuesday, while their underclassmen teammates finished finals.

"We are having fun. We always have fun," Shaheen said. "We are trying to win a championship.

"We just focus on each day and don't worry about (the big picture)."