By Ralph Cox
For the Intelligencer
WEIRTON - Wheeling Post 1 punched its ticket to the state tournament in Morgantown next week with a 5-2 victory against Weirton Post 10 in the championship game of the Area One Tournament at Ed Bowman Field.
Wheeling Post 1 pitcher Nick Naumann delivers a pitch during the Area One Tournament in Weirton.
The scrappy Post 10 held a 2-0 lead early in the game, but Post 1 scored two runs in the fifth and sixth innings and a single run in the seventh to seal the victory.
Wheeling lefty, Nick Naumann, was a little shaky in the early going, working out of jams in the first, second and fifth innings, but got stronger after to record the victory. Naumann scattered five hits. He struck out eight and walked four.
"Nick has started slow like that over the last three or four starts, but as the game progresses he gets stronger," said Coach Mark DelBrugge, who will lead his Post 1 squad (27-9) into the state tournament in Morgantown with the first game slated for next Wednesday. "Later in the game you could see his breaking ball was much better, he had a little more velocity on his ball and he had a little more swagger on the mound as he gained confidence.
"We've gotten outstanding pitching in this tournament. If you've been around baseball, you know that everything starts on the mound. We've got the build in our pitching staff to take us deep into tournaments. We've split with Fairmont this season, beat South Charleston two out of three and beat Morgantown soundly so I don't think these teams will go into the state tournament as overwhelming favorites."
Post 1 has won nine state championships over the years, but none since 1988.
Weirton lefthander, Mario Lombardi, matched Naumann pitch-for-pitch until Post 1 got to him for two runs in the sixth inning to take a 4-2 lead.
"Mario pitched a whale of a game for us tonight," said Post 10 coach Bill Magnone, whose team bows out with a record of 19-13. "You could see that he was tired there going down the stretch, but he sucked it up and pitched a heck of a game."
Lombardi gave up 10 hits while walking four and striking out one. He also worked out of several jams and kept Post 10 in the game.
"We gave them all they could handle," Magnone said. "Like I told the kids, at least we went out playing good baseball. We didn't give it away like we did late in the regular season and yesterday against Wheeling. I'm really proud of these kids and the season we had. We just got beat by a better team."
Post 10, which beat Moundsville Post 3 by a 6-3 score earlier in the day to get to the championship tilt, opened the game strong as Kaleb Baire slashed a single to left field. He went to second on a wild pitch and reached third on a wild throw. He trotted home when Kyle Woodruff doubled in the right center field gap. Post 10 had runners on second and third with one out, but Naumann worked his way out of it with a strikeout and groundout.
Post 10 made it 2-0 in the top of the fifth inning and again it was Baire that ignited the rally. His grounder to third was misplayed, went to second on a wild pitch again and rode home on Woodruff's second double to the right center gap.
The Wheeling bats came alive in the bottom of the fifth as Eric Crow led off with a hit to left center that he hustled into a double. He went to third on Nate Hardman's bouncer and scored on Naumann's single to center. Andrew Kowalo's single to left field scored Naumann.
With the score tied at 2-2, Wheeling got to Lombardi again in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Chad Harper singled to left and went to second as Crow worked Lombardi for a walk. Both moved up on a double steal and Harper scored on Hardman's sacrifice fly to right field. Crow eventually scored on a wild pitch.
Post 1 got the insurance run in the seventh when Kowalo reached on an error and raced home on a RBI single by Justice Jackson.
In the win against Moundsville earlier in the day, Post 10 scored three runs in the seventh inning to break open a 3-3 game as nine batters came to the plate. During the game, Will Larch drove in two runs with two singles, Sam Hockenberry drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, Baire got an RBI on a groundout and Matt Cessna forced in a run with a bases loaded walk.
Zack Porter was the winning pitcher giving up seven hits and five walks while striking out four.