CHARLESTON - It's not all about wins and losses for Wheeling Park baseball coach Mike McLeod.
It's about timing.
For the Patriots, the time is now as they face Riverside in the semifinals of the West Virginia state baseball tournament today with the winner advancing to the Class AAA championship game.
Photos by Scott McCloskey/Members of the Wheeling Park High School varsity boys baseball team receive a royal send-off while departing from the school Thursday afternoon for Charleston, W.Va., to participate in the Class AAA boys baseball tournament.
''The one thing that I try to express to our guys is, wins and losses is for the people that read the paper,'' McLeod said. ''You want to peak at the right time and I feel right now our guys are believing in that system and they're peaking.''
It's the first time since 1989 a Wheeling Park squad advanced the state's biggest stage and the first appearance for the Warriors (19-10), who are coached by Magnolia alum Trey Barcus, in school history.
Barcus, who is in his first year at the helm, will put the ball in the hands of ace Cameron Norris.
Norris, a West Virginia State signee, sports an 8-1 record entering the state tournament to go along with a 1.36 ERA and has retired 102 batters on strikes in just over 61 innings.
''He's the type of player that can put the team on his back offensively and defensively,'' McLeod said of Norris. ''They're riding pretty high right now.''
It's still to be determined who will be on the mound for Park (20-6), but McLeod, the OVAC Coach of the Year, noted it will either be senior Justice Jackson or junior Michael Grove.
''I probably won't know until this morning,'' McLeod said. ''I want them to both go to sleep just anticipating that they're going to be the guy. I probably won't know until I make the lineup card either late (Thursday) or early (today).
''I'll go to them and say, 'hey, how you feel?' I'll sit down and talk to them and see which way they want to go. One thing we know is it's going to be flip-flopped. Whoever is not starting the first game will start the second.''
Grove is 3-1 with a 1.31 ERA, while the Jackson is 5-2 with a 3.88 ERA.
Both help lead Park's offense attack as Grove is hitting .475 with 25 RBI and Jackson checks in with a .417 average and 19 RBI.
While Park will need them both in the grove, the offense might be dictated by how leadoff hitter Daniel Baciak fairs.
McLeod noted the junior could be an x-factor in Charleston.
''If Daniel goes and has a great series,'' McLeod said, ''I think everyone else will take care of themselves and things will be where we want them to be.''
First baseman Chalmer Moffett (.390, 25 RBI, six home runs) and outfielder Grove Calvert (.390) will also be key offensively for the Patriots.
''I'm nervous now, but when you get down there in between the lines, you just have to block everything out and focus on the game,'' Calvert said. ''I think we're peaking at the right time. It all started with Edison (in the OVAC championship game). Since then, we've been hitting better as a collective group and our defense has been unstoppable. I feel we're playing our best ball right now.''
Washington and Hurricane meet in the other Class AAA semifinal at 10 a.m. Park and Riverside play 30 minutes after the conclusion.