Park In Driver’s Seat

WHEELING – Kyler Fitzpatrick belted a bases-loaded single with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning that scored two runs and gave Wheeling Park a 4-3, come-from-behind victory against Brooke on Wednesday at Wheeling Park High School.

With the victory in the West Virginia Class AAA Region One, Section One winner’s bracket contest, the Patriots will play for a sectional championship at 5 p.m. Friday back at their home field.

Meanwhile, the Bruins will tangle with John Marshall at 5 p.m. today in an elimination game. Brooke defeated the Monarchs, 7-2, in the teams’ sectional opener Tuesday.

The winner of today’s game will need to beat Wheeling Park twice to claim the sectional crown.

Wheeling Park hadn’t played since Friday and it looked like the Patriots would be kept off the field another day thanks to Mother Nature.

Plenty of rain moved through the area Wednesday afternoon, but the weather took a turn for the better around 5 p.m.

At that point, the tarp on the field was removed and the teams hit the field about one hour later for the game’s first pitch.

”We hadn’t played since Friday so I was a little concerned,” Wheeling Park coach Chad Stout said. ”But this was a huge game because now we’re in the driver’s seat. But that doesn’t mean the passenger can’t get over and drive, either. We have to win one more game. Our guys need to understand that.”

Brooke scored two runs in the top of the seventh to take a 3-2 lead. But just when things looked bleak for the Patriots, the middle of their lineup came through in the bottom of the frame.

With one out, Corey Walter collected his third single of the game – a liner to right.

The next batter, Chris King, hit a David Alward pitch into the infield. The ball bounced hard in the grass and landed in the outfield as Brian Coen, running for Walter, cruised into second.

Ben Kimple next hit a ball to the third baseman, who was unable to get a handle it, setting the stage for Fitzpatrick’s heroics.

Fitzpatrick joined Walter with three hits and he also knocked in three runs.

”We battled,” Stout said. ”We strung a few hits together and made Alward work a little bit. I’m proud of our guys.”

Walter picked up the victory, striking out seven.

”He battled through some rough moments … he really didn’t have his best stuff once again,” Stout said. ”But a true team picks each other up.”

Brooke took a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh when Kyle Wales doubled off the ”red monster” in straightaway center field to score Zack Hartman and Nick Breen. But it wasn’t enough for the Bruins, who missed plenty of opportunities earlier in the game to break it open.

Four errors on the day didn’t help matters, either.

”I’ve said it before that little things win games,” Brooke coach Ron Ujcich said. ”The big things help, but you have to do the little things right time and time again to win games.”

Leading 1-0, Brooke had the bases loaded with one out in the third. But Shane Paesano hit into a 1-2-3 double play to end the threat.

The Bruins later loaded in the bases in the sixth, but again came up empty.

”We’ll be OK,” Ujcich said. ”I’m not real worried about these guys. They know what they have to do.”