By TONY VIOLA
WHEELING -You can't put a price on experience.
It's for that very reason Wheeling Post 1 rookie head coach Ricky Szeligo will share some of his own with his team when it travels to Morgantown today for the West Virginia State American Legion Tournament.
''You have to give it 100 percent,'' he said. ''No regrets. Don't say you could have done better.
''When I played for Post 1, I went twice (to the state tournament). We did alright, but lost the first game. The first game is crucial.''
Szeligo hopes this year's first game, a 3:30 afternoon showdown with Fairmont on Wednesday, will be a springboard to Post 1's 19th state title and the first since Wheeling dominated the tournament during the '80s where the program won a state record seven consecutive championships from 1982-88.
This year, Wheeling enters the state tournament on a three-game winning streak as Post 1 (24-17) ripped through the Area 1 tournament, outscoring its opponents 30-14.
It also piled on a season-high 20 hits in an 11-3 victory against Moundsville Post 3 and finished with 46 for the entirety of the tournament.
''We played good baseball,'' Szeligo pointed out. ''We had good at-bats.
''Pitching was phenomenal, too. Momo (Felt) and Justice (Jackson) did a great job. Hopefully that carries into the state tournament.''
Though it's still up in the air as to who the starter will be for Wednesday's matchup, there's a bevy of talent to choose from.
Felt, who gave up only two hits in nine innings during relief work in the Area 1 tournament, has seven starts on the season and has posted a 3.86 ERA to go along with 44 strikeouts in a little more than 46 innings.
Other starters Matt Brooks (48 IP, 3.91 ERA) and Trevor Stewart (45 IP, 3.40 ERA) could also be called upon to lead Post 1.
Offensively, seven of the team's nine starters are batting above .300, led by third basemen Jesse Hartley with .385 average.
Hartley also leads the team with 52 hits and 33 RBI from his cleanup spot.
Leadoff man Russell Schwertfeger (.354, 51 hits) has a knack for getting on base and scoring as his 36 runs scored leads the way, while short stop Andrew Kowalo (.328, 43), catcher Dom Ellis (.346, 47), first baseman Nate Bakaitis (.339, 40), second baseman Colton Coss (.322, 38) and Jackson (.342, 40) can also do damage at the plate.
History also plays in Wheeling's favor as Post 1 is 2-0 against Fairmont this season with a 6-0 victory on June 7 and a 3-2 victory on June 16.
''I hope we get down there and play good baseball,'' Szeligo said. ''Hopefully things fall in our favor.''
Should Post 1 win its first game, it will be in action at 7 Thursday evening against the winner of South Charleston-Morgantown. However, if Fairmont comes out victorious, Wheeling will play at 11 Thursday morning against the loser.