By TRACY WATSON
For The News-Register
WHEELING - It may not have been what Manager Mark Delbrugge was hoping for, but Wheeling Park's loss Friday in the West Virginia Class AAA state semifinals was Wheeling Post 1's gain Saturday afternoon in its American Legion baseball opener.
West Liberty sophomore-to-be Trevor Stewart scattered five singles and Post 1 got off to a huge start with seven first inning runs as Wheeling cruised to an easier-than-expected 13-1 victory against Morgantown Post 2 at the J.B. Chambers I-470 Sport Complex.
Leading the charge for Post 1 were three players who helped lead the Patriots' to the state tournament. Justice Jackson, Eric Crow and Nate Hardman, all fresh back from their trip to Charleston, combined for four hits and eight RBI in the victory.
"I truly did not want those kids to be here (Saturday)," Delbrugge said. "But at the same time it is great to see all of them in Post 1 uniforms. Anytime you can have kids like that and add the likes of Russell Schwertfeger and Nate Bakaitas, to just name a couple, it is a good thing."
In the end while the Park trio played a major part, it was a complete team effort with eight of the nine starters taking part in the 14-hit attack and the ninth player, Andrew Kowalo, walking twice, scoring a run and playing immaculate defense.
Post 2 starting pitcher Nick Gallagher had a difficult time finding the plate early on, with eight of his first nine pitches going for balls. The only strike was drilled into the right-center field gap by Nick Bakaitas, just before Andrew Kowalo walked to load the bases with nobody out.
Jackson then fouled off four consecutive pitches before driving a three-run triple to deep center field to get the hosts on the board early.
Crow kept the inning going, bring Jackson home with a double that dropped just inside the chalk down the right field line to make it a 4-0 score.
After another pair of walks loaded the bases again Wheeling Central's Mario Peroni dumped a run-scoring single to center for a 5-0 lead, chasing Gallagher off the mound without recording a single out.
Joey Minor's fielder's choice, and an error at the plate, brought home the sixth tally before Bakaitas' singled, his second hit of the frame, and Peroni scored on an error in left field for the seventh and final run of the first inning.
Delbrugge's bunch kept the carousel going in the second with a walk, Chad Harper's single, a stolen base and Hardman's two-run double down the right field line for a 9-0 margin after two.
Hustle helped Wheeling made it a double-digit lead at 10-0 in the third when Russell Schwertfeger legged out an infield second and beat the throw to second for a stolen base a couple of pitches later. Following two pop-outs Jackson drilled a single to center for his fourth RBI in three innings.
Morgantown managed to find a run in the top of the fifth with a lead-off Tristin Lucas single, a walk and an error that cut the margin to 10-1.
But Post 1 got it right back in the bottom of the inning on Jackson's fifth RBI of the contest. With the bases loaded Jackson's fly dropped in between the second baseman and right fielder, however, the out was recorded at second.
Stewart worked himself out of a jam in the top of the seven when a hit batter and two singles loaded the bases with none out for the visitors. However, Kowalo turned a double-play on a hard liner and Wheeling got out of the mess to complete the victory.
"This was just a wonderful day for Wheeling Post 1 baseball," Delbrugge added. "Even more important than this win was how much everyone was a part of this. It was a gorgeous day and there was just so much community support.
"I am so proud of all the kids as we ended up winning two out of three games today, I just wish our 15-year-old team could have won also.
"Trevor Steward did an outstanding job mixing up his pitches and staying ahead in the count all day. I think two of the biggest keys was Stewart having a pretty easy first inning and Bakaitas' double in the bottom of the first. Everyone just kind of followed after that."
"Hopefully this is the start of great things to come for Post 1 baseball. I know it was sure an encouraging first game."
Stewart threw 108 pitches in the complete game victory.
Moundsville Post 3 7-0
Richmond Post 740 0-7
MOUNDSVILLE - Moundsville Post 3 started the season with a split in a doubleheader with Richmond, Ohio Post 470, winning the opener 7-0 before falling in the nightcap by the same score.
Shane Wellman, a former John Marshall standout, now at Capital University in Columbus, scattered five hits and struck out 12 with just one walk.
Bishop Donahue's Hunter Kaschke had two singles and knocked in a run while Cameron's Cole Cotter, Bishop's Alex Riedel and Andrew Cinningham had two hits apiece. Mark Walker added a pair RBI.
Bryan Flack held Moundville to five hits in the nightcap to earn the win.
Moundville is at Steubenville for a doubleheader today.