WEIRTON - Wheeling Post 1 played themselves into the driver's seat of the Areal One Tournament on Thursday with a 13-7 victory against Weirton at Ed Bowman field.
The victory propels Post 1 into the championship game, which will be played at 4:30 p.m. today as the tournament schedule has been changed. The loss puts Post 10 in the losers' bracket final against Moundsville, at 1 p.m., with the winner returning for what amounts to a doubleheader against Wheeling in the nightcap.
Should Wheeling get upset, a deciding game will be played at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Photo by Matthew Peaslee/Wheeling’s Nick Naumann takes a big cut during Thursday action of the Area One Tournament in Weirton.
Post 1 led by only 6-5 going into the seventh inning, but broke the game open with three runs there and five more in the eighth. Despite walking nine batters and having five errors behind him, Mitch Viakely kept Post 10 in the game until he tired in the seventh.
"Viakely pitched well but his pitch count was way up early," said victorious manager Mark Delbrugge, whose Post 1 squad is 26-9. "His pitch count was near 100 by the fourth inning. You could tell he was running out of gas a little bit, but I thought he did a good job.
"The Weirton kids played their hearts out. Now they kicked it around, but they really outplayed us for most of the game."
On the other side, Post 10 knocked Wheeling's starting pitcher, Trevor Stewart, out of the game in the fourth inning and actually out-hit Post 1 in the game, 13-11, but 14 free passes and the eight errors were too much to overcome.
"We pretty much shot ourselves in the foot," Post 10 manager Bill Magnone. "You can't make that many errors and walk that many batters and expect to win, especially against a good team like Wheeling. They took advantage of that stuff. That's what good teams do."
Post 1 set the tone early scoring two first inning runs without a hit. Leadoff batter Joey Minor's fly ball to center field was misplayed and Nate Bakaitis followed with a walk. Minor worked his way to third on Andrew Kowalo's deep fly to right field and scored when Justice Jackson hit into a fielder's choice. Jackson scored when Jameson Murray's grounder to shortstop was misplayed.
Weirton went ahead in the second inning. Matt Cessna led off with a walk and went to second on Viakely's hit to right field. The Wheeling catcher threw the ball into right field attempting to get Kyle Woodruff after his sacrifice bunt, and both Cessna and Viakely scored on Mario Lombardi's single to right. Pat Reardon drove Lombardi home with a single. Post 10 also had two runners cut down at the plate trying to score.
Post 1 came right back in the third inning with the tying run as Chad Harper, who had reached on a Post 10 error, scored when Murray laced an RBI single.
Murray is a member of the West Virginia squad in the annual OVAC All-Star football game, but got excused from camp to play in the game and his presence was important for Post 1 as he collected four hits and six RBI to lead the way.
Post 10 scored two runs in the fourth inning to take the lead again and knock out Stewart. Sam Hockenberry got his second hit of the game. Reardon hit a fielder's choice grounder in which Hockenberry made it safely to second base. William Larch drove home Hockenberry with a fielder's choice ground ball and Reardon raced to the plate on Cessna's sharp single to center field.
Delbrugge replaced Stewart with Mario Peroni and he closed the door on Post 10, striking out nine batters in the 4.1 innings he pitched. Despite the deficit, Post 10 got to Peroni in the top of the ninth. They scored two runs before Jub Delbrugge, the coach's son, replaced Peroni and quelled the uprising.
With Viakely having thrown more than 130 pitches, Post 1 scored two runs off of him with two outs in the seventh inning. Jackson started it with a walk and when Viakely followed that with a walk to Harper, Magnone brought in Matt Cessna to pitch. He gave up a walk, single to Murray and another walk. Murray's hit drove home Jackson and Harper and Eric Crow, who had drawn a walk from Cessna, scored on a wild pitch.
Post 1 scored five more runs in the eighth inning to put it away.