Team Plants the Seed

WHEELING – While the Wheeling Thunder baseball team is no longer together, the fruits of five summers of labor is still being felt.

At least on local high school diamonds.

The Little League team that could, and often did, travel across state lines to compete against the best, has gone on to bigger things.

And the one goal the team’s organizers – Mark Delbrugge, Tom Giovengo and Doug Hlad – has been met.

“When we started the Thunder, our goal all along was to see these kids go on and play high school baseball,” Delbrugge, who no coaches the Wheeling Post 1 squad, said.

“It started out as a joint type of venture between Warwood, where I was coaching, and Benwood.”

The two area ‘woods formed a squad, and nobody really knew how it would turn out.

How about 116-32?

That was the team’s five-year record going to places like Pittsburgh, Morgantown and the Columbus area to find the best competition to play.

Seven of the original nine are now playing high school baseball, including Wheeling Park’s Jarrett Delbrugge, Collin Hlad and Jub Delbrugge, Wheeling Central’s Tyler Riedel, Linsly’s Gage Giovengo, and Bishop Donahue’s Johnne Stocklast and J.C. Cutter. All played on the varsity level as freshman, which is an accomplishment itself.

Brooke’s Chad Harper and Linsly’s Logan Welch later joined the crew and they competed in the tristate area, winning a lot of games and a lot of major tournaments, including the Morgantown Marathon where the Thunder beat a talented Montour travel team.

“We actually started talking about this when they were all nine-year olds,” Delbrugge said. “We thought these kids had a lot of potential, and if they wanted to get ready to play at a high level we needed to get out and play some high-level competition. When they were 10, that seemed like the right time and we said, ‘Let’s give this a shot and see what happens.'”

Now, all have met the goal of playing high school baseball, a fact that makes the coach proud.

“Every kid has gone on to play varsity baseball and we are very proud of that fact,” Delbrugge said. “To see a guy like Chad Harper make second-team all-state is something that was a very proud moment for us. Winning a couple of really big tournaments, we were really proud of that. But the main thing, seeing all these kids move on to play high school baseball, which was the goal all along, that is something we are really proud of. This was wonderful group of kids with a wonderful group of parents.”