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BASEBALL: Park Defeats Brooke In Extra Innings

Patriots’ Banks gets game-winning RBI

April 18, 2013
By TONY VIOLA, Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING - When Wheeling Park baseball coach Mike McLeod was watching his team's battle with Brooke on Wednesday, he couldn't help but to think about boxing.

''We knew we were going to get their best punch,'' he said. ''They came out of the gate swinging. It just reminded me of an old classic boxing match. They punched us and we punched back.''

It took the Patriots an extra inning, however, to deliver the knockout blow as an Eric Banks hit into left field drove in Justice Jackson to give Park a 7-6 triumph against the upset-minded Bruins at Wheeling Park High School.

Article Photos

Brooke’s Heath Hildreth (3) delivers during Wednesday’s game against Wheeling Park. He finished with 8 strikeouts in 2 innings.

''I knew that coming in it was a big game for sectional seeding,'' McLeod said. ''Luckily when the final bell rung, we got a nice hit. We battled back and scratched back and persevered.''

Brooke (2-13) did receive some help early on from the Patriots (15-1) because two of the three runs the Bruins scored in first inning came off of walks as Heath Hildreth and Alec Buchmelter strolled across home plate without even breaking a sweat.

''Somehow, someway, and I don't know why, but for some reason our younger pitchers, I don't know if they don't prepare or they don't warm up right, but they have a hard time finding the plate early,'' McLeod pointed out. ''You can't defend walks. When you're walking people, no matter how good your defense is, you can't defend them.''

The Bruins added another run in the third after Chad Harper scored on a wild pitch to take a 4-0 lead and led to McLeod taking Eric McCave out of the game in favor of Eric Crow.

Park then started to come back in the bottom half of the inning as Matt Hackathorn drove in Jackson and Trevor Stewart to make it 4-2.

An inning later, Ethan Jacobs scored on a wild pitch before Jackson doubled to bring in Andrew Kowalo. Stewart cleared the way for Jesse Hartley and Jackson on the next at bat as the senior doubled into right field for a 6-5 Patriots lead.

It was a pitching duel between Hildreth, who threw every one for the Bruins during the marathon, and Crow for the next two innings, before Matt Brooks took over for the Park junior.

Just as the sun seemed to be setting on Brooke, Russell Schwertfeger tripled deep into right field and scored on a wild pitch to tie the game, 6-6.

''That was big for us,'' Bruins coach Ron Ujcich said. ''That puts us back in the ball game. (Schwertfeger's) a kid that's a legitimate triple threat. You get him to third and he has a potential to score real easily.''

Park looked like it would seal the deal in the seventh with two men on, but Hartley hit a line drive right into the glove of Buchmelter and the game moved into extra innings.

The Bruins went in order in the eighth and a balk and a sacrifice bunt moved Jackson to third for Park to set up Bank's walk-off hit.

''I'm pleased with the effort out of my guys,'' Ujcich said. ''They never quit. They could have very easily laid their heads down a few times, but they didn't. They kept fighting back in it.''

According to McLeod, he expected nothing less from the Patriots' long- time rival.

''It's Brooke/Park. It's a rivalry no matter what you're doing. If you're pitching rocks across the river, Park wants to beat Brooke and Brooke wants to beat Park. They had us on the ropes and luckily we battled back.''

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