WHEELING - Facing elimination in the West Virginia American Legion State Baseball Tournament, Moundsville Post 3 again displayed its resiliency Thursday morning at the J.B. Chambers I-470 Sports Complex.
Manager Bill Burkett's club twice rallied from two-run deficits and scored the winning run on Phillip Smith's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth inning to squeeze past Berkeley Post 14, 6-5.
The victory sends Moundsville on to another elimination game at 3 p.m. today against rival Wheeling Post 1, who Post 3 defeated twice last week to win the Area One Tournament.
Post 3 first baseman John Mirandy, front, and catcher Mark Walker almost collide going for a foul ball.
''They didn't give up,'' Burkett said. ''We made some mistakes but we got some hits at the right time.''
Moundsville (28-17) starting pitcher Jake Lucas battled through 7 1/3 innings, pitching out of several jams before switching positions with shortstop Ryan Hughes with a runner at first in the top of the eighth.
The first batter Hughes faced reached on an error but the Cameron High School hurler struck out Berkeley's Phil Longnecker for the second out and retired Jacob Whitmore on a pop fly to Jimmy Henderson at third base. Both Longnecker and Whitmore had big days at the plate until facing Hughes. Longnecker's day included two singles, a sacrifice fly and two RBI, while Whitmore had a pair of run-scoring doubles.
Hughes also helped the cause offensively with a two-run double in the first inning and he scored what proved to be the winning run in the bottom of the eighth. He ripped a single on a ball that bounced off the bag at second base into center field to start the rally. Hughes then moved up to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on Mitchel French's sacrifice bunt and scored when Smith drove a pitch up in the strike zone for a sacrifice fly to left field.
Berkeley (13-22) put two runners on base in the top of the ninth as Evan Woolem walked and made it to second with one out after Brandon Cornell was hit by a pitch. Hughes then nailed down a victory by retiring Jared Spielmen on a called third strike and Trey Thompson on a bounce out to second baseman Shane Wellman.
Although entering the tournament with a losing record, Berkeley proved to be a tough out in both games. On Wednesday, the Eastern Panhandle club led Elkins 11-5 late only to fall 16-11 after Post 29 exploded for 11 runs in the eighth inning.
''We may have come here with 20 losses but our kids battled hard all season," Post 14 manager Scott Jenkins said. ''Eight of our losses were by one run and four others were two-run games.
''We had our opportunities but hurt ourselves with a couple of wild pitches and an error when they tied the game. We enjoyed coming here for the state tournament. I just wish we could have hung around a little longer.''
Berkeley got off to a good start against Post 3, scoring two runs on three hits in the top of the first. Thompson found the right-center gap with a double leading off the inning. With one out and Longnecker at bat, Thompson took off for third base and scored easily when the Berkeley shortstop blooped a single into left field. Whitmore slashed a two-out double down the right field line to bring home the second run of the inning.
Post 3 bounced back for a 3-2 lead in its first turn at bat. Henderson lined the first pitch he saw from Post 14 pitcher Cody Butts over second base for a single. He quickly stole second and alertly advanced to third when Berkeley catcher Thomas Presley dropped a third strike and had to throw to first to retire Lucas.
John Mirandy picked up an RBI with a single down the right-field line. Todd Schmidt walked and was erased on Shane Wellman's ground ball to shortstop. With runners at first and third and two out, Hughes began what would be a big day by ripping a two-run double to put Moundsville in front.
After three scoreless innings, Berkeley regained a 4-3 advantage in the top of the fifth but might have pushed across a couple more if it wasn't for Schmidt's hustling catch in the gap between center and right.
Consecutive singles by Longnecker and Butts was followed by Whitmore's RBI double on a ball that landed near the base of the fence in right field. Still with nobody out, Woolem connected with a drive that appeared to be a gap shot as well but Schmidt raced to his left, stuck out his glove and made the catch. Instead of a two-run double, Woolem had to settle for a sacrifice fly.
Still with a runner at third and just one out, Lucas escaped further damage by retiring Tanner Partlow and Jared Spielmen on infield popups.
Berkeley added a run for a 5-3 lead in the top of the sixth when Thompson walked for third straight time, advanced two bases on Jared Jenkins single and scored when Longnecker field out to French in left field.
Hughes reached on an error and French singled to open the bottom of the frame. Smith's sacrifice bunt moved up the runners and Mark Walker's grounder to short made it a 5-4 game. French then raced home with the tying run on a wild pitch.
Henderson, Mirandy, Hughes and Walker each collected two of Moundsville's 11 hits. Jenkins, Longnecker and Whitmore had two hits each for Berkeley.