WHEELING - With 90 percent of the regular season in the books, Wheeling Park coach Mike McLeod had hoped days like Thursday were behind his Patriots.
Not just yet.
The Patriots committed five errors - two that allowed three runs to score on those plays - in an 11-3 loss to Wheeling Central at the baseball field at the I-470 complex.
PHOTO BY JIM ELLIOTT
Wheeling Park second baseman Cameron Amend, left, and RF Zach Drake chase down a ball Thursday.
''Our record doesn't indicate it but we've got a good ballclub,'' McLeod said. ''We've got another week before sectionals - before what I have always told the kids, before it counts. We'll hopefully get these errors out now and get it figured out.''
Wheeling Central, meanwhile, appears to be peaking at the right time, having beaten Linsly and Wheeling Park in back-to-back games leading up to a sectional tournament in which it is a very uncharacteristic bottom seed.
''We've got to prove our point that we're not that bad of a team,'' Maroon Knights coach Jimbo Wodusky said.
The Knights did that with a four-run third inning that gave them a 4-1 lead and a five-run sixth that finished off the Patriots.
Wheeling Park took a 1-0 lead on a somewhat controversial home run by No. 9 hitter Julian Figaretti. The Knights claimed the ball bounced; the umpires saw it differently.
''Our left fielder reacted like it went over,'' Wodusky said. ''He should have just put his arm up.''
Central bounced back with a four-spot in the bottom of the inning, highlighted by a two-run double off the bat of No. 8 hitter Nick Naumann and helped by Park's second and third errors of the game.
Back-to-back RBI singles by Dylan Janeczko and Ethan Jacobs with two outs in the fifth got Park back to within 4-3 ahead of the Wheeling Central sixth inning.
The defensive wheels came off again with two more errors, one in which the Maroon Knights scored two runs after a ball rolled through the shortstop's legs off the bat of Andrew Keane. Naumann and pinch-hitter John McFarland hit back-to-back singles and Patrick Biega drove in a run via a bases-loaded walk.
''We took advantage of some of their mistakes,'' Wodusky said.
Not helping matters, three Park pitchers combined to walk seven.
''When you compound errors with walks, it's not a good diagnosis for the team that's doing it,'' McLeod said.
Meanwhile Mic Keys worked a complete game for Central, striking out five and walking one.
''He's just a performer,'' Wodusky said. ''When games are on the line, when you need something to happen for your team, that's the kid you're going to turn to. He knew he had to gut it out. The conditions weren't the greatest. I still say he's one of the best in the valley. I'm going to throw my chips in his hat when I need him.''
At the plate, Keys went 3-for-5 with a pair of singles and a double.
Wheeling Park outhit Wheeling Central, 9-8.