WHEELING - With one swing of the bat Tuesday afternoon, Linsly senior slugger Alex Stephens turned a pitcher's duel into a victory against city-rival Wheeling Central.
Junior Momo Felt fired a complete-game one-hitter, allowing only an infield single with two out in the top of the seventh, and Stephens broke open a scoreless game with a two-out, two-run homer in the fifth as the Cadets downed the Maroon Knights by a 3-0 count at Holloway Field.
Felt, a new addition to Coach Jay Cartwright's squad, finished with 12 strikeouts and one walk. The only free pass came to Anthony Tighe leading off the seventh, and he was thrown out trying to steal. Felt needed 81 pitches, 54 of which went for strikes, to complete the gem.
While Felt kept Central (2-1) off-balance with his breaking ball, the Knights' Mick Keys was busy keeping Linsly (6-2) off the scoreboard for the first four frames.
The Cadets missed golden opportunities in both the first and fourth innings with Keys bearing down in a pair of pressure situations.
In the home-half of the first, Linsly loaded the bases with single and pair of walks before Keys set down Leighton Gibson and Michael Joseph on strikes and got Neil Tennant to fly out to right field to end the threat.
Linsly put two on with two-out following a pickoff in the fourth, but again Keys induced a fly ball to keep the game scoreless.
That ended in the fifth when Haydon Stanley reached on a two-out error and Stephens made the Maroon Knights pay two pitches later, turning on a Keys 1-0 fastball and drilling it deep over the left-center field fence for a 2-0 reading.
After Gibson walked on four pitches, Joseph sent a long fly ball to center that was misplayed into a two-base error with Gibson skimming across the dish to make it 3-0.
''Mick pitched a real good game,'' Wheeling Central coach Jimbo Wodusky said. ''But facing one of the best hitters in the valley, he fed him a fastball right down the middle of the plate that made the difference.''
With two down in the top of the seventh, John McFarland beat out a slow infield roller and eventually advanced all the way to third, where he was eventually stranded.
''That was two very good high school pitchers going at it out there and overall, just a great high school baseball game,'' Cartwright said. ''But we expect that every year with Central, they are just so well-coached and hit and field so well. They just keep coming after you, like they did in the seventh (Tuesday).
''I thought we had them on the ropes in the first inning, but Mick Keys pitched a very good game and he struck out two big bats in the middle of our order to help get out of that mess.
''Keys had a lot of pop on his fast ball and he was real tough to hit, but Alex (Stephens) got us a real big swing there in the fifth with two outs and that made the difference. That is the reason he is the No. 3 hitter on this team, he is just one heckuva a baseball player.
''And Momo Felt was just on. His breaking ball was on and he did a nice job changing speeds and staying deceptive.''
While Wodusky was proud of his team's effort overall, he was not very happy with the production at the plate.
''He just kept throwing that curve in the dirt and we kept swinging at it,'' Wodusky said. ''Linsly figured that out on the first pitch that we were going to go after that pitch. You have to be able to adjust to those things at the plate and we just didn't.
''But as I have already said, these are early season mistakes that will correct themselves. I am happy with the way we battled (Tuesday), just not very happy with our at-bats.''
Keys and Nick Naumann did combine to limit Linsly to just four hits, striking out nine and walking five along the way.