Park Is King of Class 5A

STEUBENVILLE – If there is a time to be peaking in high school baseball, right around the time of the OVAC Tournament and just a week before sectional play might be as good as time as any.

That is what seems to be the case with Coach Mike McLeod’s Wheeling Park team as the Patriots, even with a week off, have really found a rhythm.

Seven days after putting up 15 runs on 15 hits against sectional rival Brooke in the OVAC Class 5A semifinals, Park went back to work Saturday and again pounded the ball against top-seeded Edison in the finals.

Justice Jackson and Chalmer Moffett had four hits apiece and Grove Calvert highlighted a six-run, fourth-inning rally with a two-run homer as the Patriots collected 16 more hits in a stunning, 10-2 thrashing of the Wildcats in the big-school championship game at Vaccaro Field.

It was the third conference baseball title in Wheeling Park’s history and the first since the Patriots captured the Class 4A championship in 2006. Meanwhile, Edison (13-3) was the defending champion and had won three in a row overall, capturing 5A in 2012 and 3A in 2011.

“This is a real good feeling,” a beaming McLeod said. “It’s only the third in school history, but the kids are real excited and have worked so hard for this.

“We have great senior leadership. This is a little bit of history for us. There is one other shot at history for us down the line, and the kids know what that is.”

Park (13-5) wasted a pair of scoring chances in the opening two innings, but got those back later.

A strikeout to end the inning kept Wheeling Park (13-5) off the scoreboard.

McLeod’s squad did get on the board first in the third inning on Jackson’s two-out RBI single over short, but the Patriots left the bases loaded, stranding their sixth runner in three innings.

The Wildcats got that run back in the bottom of the inning on a lead-off Dylan Jones double, a wild pitch and Nolan Marcus’ fielder’s choice.

But the big hits finally started coming for the Patriots in the fourth when they sent nine hitters to plate and pushed across six runs to make it a 7-1 score. The big blast was Calvert’s two-run bomb over the left-field fence.

Jackson had an RBI triple during the uprising while Eric Crow, Michael Grove and Moffett all provided run-scoring base hits.

The Patriots extended the lead with three more in the sixth, including a two-run Zane Hummel single and another tally on Edison’s second error.

Trailing by nine, the Cats loaded the bases in the home-half of the sixth on a single, walk and error, but were unable to push across any tallies.

“The kids hit the ball hard and we take pride in that,” McLeod added. “I told the seniors (Saturday) morning before we headed here that we were going to need them and they came through.

“It’s funny, we seem to leave a lot of guys on early, but we continue to be aggressive at the plate and on the bases and it comes around. These are kids and they don’t always get the job done, but it feels good that they did.”

Starting pitcher Matt Brooks pitched well for the Patriots, fanning six and walking just two, through four innings while allowing three hits. Grove came on in the fifth to pick up a victory and Daniel Baciak closed the door.

“Wheeling Park hit the ball hard and put it in play and our offense just wasn’t enough,” Edison coach Mike Collopy said. “They are a very good team and they took advantage of their opportunities and we didn’t.”