WHEELING - An impressive early season bat barrage continued for the Wheeling Post 1 American Legion baseball team during the opening game of Saturday afternoon's doubleheader against Bridgeport (WV) Post 68 on a sun-baked diamond at the J.B. Chambers 1-470 Complex.
With 3-4 hitters Nick Breen and Matt Carnahan combining for five hits along with just as many RBI and runs scored, Manager Tom Pasco's team cruised to a 16-6 victory in a game shortened to five innings by the mercy rule.
Breen singled twice, walked, scored three times and knocked home one run during three official plate appearances as Post 1 collected a total of 13 hits. Carnahan, coming off his freshman season on the Capital University baseball team, accounted for two singles, a double, two runs scored and four RBI. During his other time at the plate, Carnahan walked during Wheeling's six-run bottom of the fifth uprising that brought the game to an end.
Wheeling's only other extra-base hit was Jon-Michael Brunner's long double over the head of Bridgeport center fielder Greg Smith, also in the sixth frame. Haydon Stanley collected two hits and three RBI for the winners.
Pasco, thrilled by the early offensive onslaught from his big hitters in the lineup, also was pleased about the way they were making their hits count.
''Nick and Matt not only are hitting the ball hard, they are coming up with big hits when we need them. Even though we faced what I thought was a pretty good pitcher, our guys squared the ball up pretty well,'' Pasco said.
Pitching wasn't exactly a bright spot on either side as the four hurlers had some problems throwing strikes. Bridgeport, making its season debut against Wheeling's defending Area One champions, had its two pitchers Kody Frey and Tyler Skidmore hand out seven walks against two strikeouts.
Wheeling's Justice Jackson also had all kind of problems throwing strikes and left in the second inning after issuing six walks, two with the bases loaded. His replacement, Eric Crow, waked five but allowed just one run after the second inning to get credit for a victory.
''We got a little inconsistent out there but I'm telling you that Justice Jackson is going to pitch a lot of innings for us this year," Pasco stressed. ''He will do a good job. We've only had one bad start out of our first three games and I'll take that all the time.''
Dylan Williams' line single up the middle and Carnahan's two-out chopper found its way past the shortstop into left field giving, Post 1 a early 1-0 lead.
However, five walks and an error, combined with Nolan Tucci's leadoff single during the top of the second, enabled Post 68 to jump ahead 5-1.
Wheeling rebounded with five runs in the last of the second frame to regain the lead. Haydon Stanley picked up the first of his three RBI with a pop fly that dropped safely behind second base. Breen got an RBI with an infield single to deep short and Carnahan ripped a two-run single to tie the score at 5-5. While trying to advance to second on the throw home, Carnahan was tagged out but Breen, hustling all the way, scored the go-ahead run before the ball could be returned to Post 68 catcher Adam Secret.
After Bridgeport got even at 6-6 on Brandon Purkey's single, Wheeling went back ahead with a run in the bottom of the third by playing the kind of small ball that always seems to delight Pasco. Singles by Stevie Jeffries and Pat Biega put runners at first and third. Nate Bakaitis then successfully executed the suicide squeeze bunt as he was thrown out pitcher to first as Jeffries scored.
''That was a big play at that point of the game because we got the lead back,'' Pasco said. ''Nate did a nice job getting the bat on the ball and Stevie scored easily.''
Post 1 then batted around two innings in a row to put the game away. In the fourth inning, Wheeling's three-run rally, featured Carnahan's two-run double and bases-loaded walks drawn by Bakaitis and Ethan Jacobs.
The six-run fifth was helped out by two Bridgeport errors, a passed ball on a strikeout that allowed Jefferies to reach first and Stanley's two-run single. A third run and game-ending run scored on Stanley's hit when the relay throw got away and the rolled out out of play.
Wheeling Post 1 20
Bridgeport Post 68 17
WHEELING - Haydon Stanley had six hits and drove five in as Wheeling Post 1 defeated Bridgeport Post 68. Eric Crowl added five more hits while Dillon Williams and Jess Hartley each had three apiece for Wheeling (5-0).
Adam Secret led Bridgeport with three RBI singles.
Moundsville Post 3 5-6
St. Marys Post 79 2-9
GLEN DALE - Todd Schmitt hit a home run and drove two home in the first game as Moundsville Post 3 split with St. Marys Post 79.
Jim Henderson and Ryan Hughes each added a double for Moundsville (5-1) while Phil Smith had two hits and an RBI. In game two, Hughes hit two RBI doubles but it was not enough as Moundsville fell to St. Marys (1-6). Jim Henderson, John Mirandy, and Jared Haran had two hits apiece.