KEYSER - Wheeling Post 1 has been making a habit of falling behind in tournament games.
Luckily, Matt Carnahan has had a habit of hitting a key home run to save the day.
Carnahan's two-run blast in the bottom of the eighth inning sent Post 1 to a 7-6 victory against Potomac Valley in their opening game of the West Virginia State Legion Baseball Tournament at Potomac State College's Golden Park.
Wheeling’s Jack Weishar lays down a sacrifice bunt during action Thursday.
PHOTO BY JOSH STROPE
"He's been clutch all year," Post 1 manager Tom Pasco said. "Just when you think he's cooled off, he'll pull another one out of his hat. You can't say enough about big-time players in big-time situations and that's why we're where we're at."
Where Post 1 is is unfamiliar territory. In the previous two seasons, Wheeling has lost the first game and played elimination contests the rest of the way.
Today's 5 p.m. game against Bridgeport MVD won't have that kind of pressure, but Post 1 is already off to a good start on seeing just how close it came to being eliminated.
Post 64, the host team which didn't have to earn a spot in the tourney, led throughout. Potomac Valley started things with a three-run first and despite Wheeling tying the score on three occasions, looked in control.
Leading 5-4 in the bottom of the eighth, Wheeling showed the resolve it had during the Area One Tournament against Moundsville.
With the top of the order up, Haydon Stanley led the inning with a ground-rule double. A wild pitch put him at third.
Derek Taylor walked to put the go-ahead run at first.
With Jon-Michael Brunner at the plate, Stanley misread a sign and charged for home. Potomac Valley snuffed it out and Stanley was hung out to dry, shades of how Wheeling lost the opening game in last season's tournament.
But the difference this time was Potomac Valley catcher John Starkey threw the ball over the head of third baseman Dustin Redman and Stanley was able to trot home to tie the game at 5-5.
"You gotta know the signs," Pasco said. "I took it off. I wanted to do it but I wanted by No. 3 man, J-M Brunner, to get his at-bat because he can hit with anybody. I took it off, we misread it, one of those little key mistakes that worked out. Probably the baseball gods were looking out for us there."
Brunner struck out, but Carnahan hit the two-run bomb to put Post 1 in front for the first time at 7-5.
Tim Mirandy earned a victory, going eight innings and striking out five. Nick Breen came on in the ninth to earn the save, despite allowing a run and the tying run to reach second. Two flyouts from the top of the Post 64 order ended the game.
"I have mixed emotions," Pasco said. "On one hand, I'm absolutely ecstatic we came from behind, showed the character of a really good team. Then on the other hand, we left so many guys on base (11) that it's a little bit frustrating.
"Eventually (falling behind) is going to come back and bite us in the butt. I'm not happy about that, but we'll take what's given to us. Keep fighting, keep hanging in there, but the competition is getting better and better and sooner than later you are not going to be able to do that."
Brunner, Taylor, and Andrew Kowalo each added RBI singles. Stanley and Carnahan each had two hits.