Post 1 Has Sights on a 15th Crown

CHARLESTON – What a difference a week makes.

This time last week, Wheeling Post 1 wasn’t sure if it would be able to compete in the Area One Tournament because of use of an ineligible player.

Now, they are suiting up and preparing to make a run at the state championship, starting at noon today at Appalachian Power Park and a date with Elkins Post 29.

Manager Tom Pasco took an eight-game suspension to allow the team to participate in the Area One Tournament and his players repaid his sacrifice by scoring 37 runs in three games to earn the trip to Charleston.

”I think the adversity pulled us together,” said assistant coach Mark Maguire, who is filling in for Pasco. ”Maybe it made us focus more than we were doing.

”In the middle of the season, we played in three big-time tournaments (Elkins’ Hillbilly Hardball Classic, a tournament in Columbus, Edgar Martin Beast of the East Tournament) in succession.

”We were beat-up, tired, and had guys with sore arms and pulled muscles. We weren’t ready mentally.

”But when things started getting tough, they rallied behind the coaching staff and were ready to play when we had to.”

The Wheeling lineup has been hot behind the hitting of Tim Mirandy, Jon-Michael Brunner, Alex Stephens, Scott Castilow, Matt Carnahan, and Brian Coen.

Post 1 enters the tournament with a 20-17 record (24-13 but had to forfeit four games) after winning the Area One Tournament. Area Five champion Elkins is 35-8.

Other teams participating this week are Morgantown Post 2 (28-14), defending champion South Charleston Post 94 (29-7), Parkersburg Post 15 (18-17), and Berkeley County Post 14 (18-13-1).

It’s one of the deepest fields in some time with no clear-cut favorite.

”We know we are going to see some good competition,” Maguire said. ”Typically we get a chance to see Elkins play, but we didn’t get that opportunity so we don’t know what to expect. We don’t much about them at all.

”What we do know is that there are six good baseball teams, all with a good chance to win.”

Post 1 will throw crafty left-hander Jack Weishar against Elkins, followed up Thursday by Matt Smith. Justin Lee will be used in relief with Corey Walter available to close.

If Wheeling wins, it will play at 3 p.m. Thursday. If Post 1 loses, it plays at noon.

Last season, Wheeling was the first team eliminated and the club is bound and determined not to make that a second consecutive early exit.

Post 1 has 14 state championships but none since 1988 – or before any player on the team was born.

”We need to continue to stay focused,” Maguire said. ”Hit and score some runs. With the quality of the teams down there, we know everybody is going to score.

”The big thing is that we can’t get down on ourselves if we get down. This is a nine-inning game and there will be plenty of time.

”If everybody does their job and we can get some good, quality pitching, we think we have a shot to win this.”