WHEELING - Wednesday wasn't the first time Wheeling Park (14-5) baseball coach Mike McLeod had seen this type of performance from ace left-hander Justice Jackson.
''He's a gladiator, dating back to the regional final last year,'' McLeod said. ''South had us in some sticky situations - they were a great team - and he only gave up four runs.
''When he pitches I never really worry about anything.''
Jackson allowed back-to-back singles by St. Clairsville's Malik Gummer and Lewis Mitchell to begin the game, but worked out of the jam unscathed to pave the way for Park's 6-1 victory on Senior Day at Patriot Field.
''He battles hard and he knows where he wants pitches,'' McLeod continued. ''He wants to beat whoever is up there.''
Red Devils (8-9) coach Tom Sliva certainly will verify. If his club scores a couple runs in that situation - St.C. actually left four on base the first three innings - it may have been a different game.
''I know it's baseball and a lot of things happen, but we've got to get a couple runs out of that first inning,'' Sliva said. ''Our approach hasn't been good, I won't lie to you.
''We're a young team but that's two nights in a row that we have put together two good approaches. We only got one win, but it was two good approaches and that is a start.''
St. Clairsville starter Brandon Carothers wasn't as fortunate.
Jackson led off the first with a single and scored two outs later on Michael Grove's single. But the Patriots busted it open an inning later with four runs.
Grove Calvert and Zane Hummel sandwiched walks around a Nathan Hardman single, and Chuck Heyman brought Jackson home with another base hit.
The big hit though, came with two outs and the bases still loaded. With a 3-1 count, Wheeling Park's Eric Crow blasted one off the batter's eye in center field for a triple, clearing the bases to make it 5-0.
''He's been steady all year,'' McLeod said of Crow. ''All the seniors in our lineup that play have been steady for us.
''Crow and Calvert and Jackson, we're going to go as they go.''
The Patriots tacked on an unearned run in the third as Calvert led off with a single and stole second. An error two outs later allowed him to come around and score.
''Our pitcher, Brandon Carothers, has done a great job this year keeping us in every game. If you look at it, after that (Crow) hit they never really threatened again.
''I'm real happy with the steps we took forward, I am just not happy with the loss.''
A leadoff double from Luke Slavik got St. Clairsville started in the fifth. He was lifted for courtesy runner Cody Goletz, who ended up scoring one out later on Gummer's groundout to second to make it 6-1.
Matt Brooks came on to shut the door with two hitless innings of relief for Park.
''We're getting closer, but we're running out of days to get better,'' McLeod said. ''We're almost where I want us to be. We've got to get a little bit better mentally.
''Overall, I think we'll be ready (for the postseason).