Wheeling Central Baseball Forces Decisive Game 3 With Victory Over Cameron in Class A Sectional Matchup

Maroon Knights Slay Dragons, 8-3

Photo by Cody Tomer Wheeling Central pitcher Josh Custer delivers to the plate during Saturday’s Class A Region One Section One game against Cameron at the J.B. Chambers I-470 Field.

WHEELING — Wheeling Central hitters have struggled to solve Cameron pitching this year.

That was until Saturday.

With their backs against the wall, the Maroon Knights delivered eight hits — four in the first inning — and evened the Class A Region One Section One series with an 8-3 victory over the Dragons at the J.B. Chambers I-470 Baseball Complex.

The decisive Game 3 is slated for Monday at 6 p.m. at I-470, weather permitting.

Leading up to Saturday’s contest, Central had produced a combined five runs in its last two meetings with Cameron — both losses.

Central coach Bo McConnaughy knew that had to change.

“I told them after we were done hitting (Saturday) afternoon, ‘You have to play every game from here on in like it’s the last game you’re ever going to play,'” McConnaughy said. “We came out, the bats were hot and we were making plays.

“That’s the key. We haven’t hit their pitchers. That’s the other thing I told them. ‘We have to come out with fire. We have to hit and hit and hit’ and we hit this game. That set the tone.”

It certainly did.

The first five hitters of the game reached base safely for Central and all came around to score.

After back-to-back walks to start the game and a throwing error on a bunt made it 1-0, Central cleanup hitter Sonny Peluchette supplied a two-run single to right.

Then, Dominic Pompeo garnered a RBI double and later in the frame Mike Toepher smacked a RBI knock to left for an early 5-0 upperhand.

“It’s tough to take three days off,” Cameron coach Matt Carnahan said. “Not to make excuses. There are no excuses. We have to come out and play better than that. But it’s tough.

“We don’t have a field to practice on and we don’t have a cage to hit in, so we couldn’t do anything for three straight days.

“Once we got back into the flow of playing the game and seeing groundballs and seeing pitches live, after the second inning we cleaned it up and outscored them 3-2 the rest of the way.”

Central added to its lead in the second and third innings — in large part because of the bottom of the order.

The Knights’ 6 through 9 hitters tallied five of the team’s eight hits in the game, which included RBI singles in the third from No. 8 hitter Kyle Newmeyer and No. 9 hitter Clay Slyder.

“I’ve been on them pretty hard,” McConnaughy said. “In the last week or two weeks, our bottom of the order has been horrible. (Saturday) they came through.

“We worked on some things in batting practice with those guys. (Cameron) throws a lot of curveballs, so that’s what we were throwing in practice, so we could see that.”

Angelo Gentile provided a sacrifice fly in the second and Central took an 8-0 cushion into the fourth.

Cameron starting pitcher Travis Mickey was lifted in the first but Jessop Broughton settled into the game nicely.

He fanned six, struck out the side in the fourth and retired the final 10 batters he faced.

“(Broughton) didn’t have much time to warm up before he came in,” Carnahan said. “He came in cold out of the field but he settled in and did a really good job.”

Cameron had its opportunities but could not cash in.

In the third, the Dragons had the bases loaded with one out and could not score. They had two on in the sixth with one out to no avail and with the bases loaded in the fifth, they did not execute a squeeze bunt. Moments later, a runner was caught in a run down between second and third to end the threat.

“He heard me say ‘go’ to the runner on third because of the passed ball,” Carnahan said. “He hesitated a little bit and came back. I think he heard me say ‘go’ and was taking off.

“That was just another mistake we made. Physical, mental, we made them all. Once we clean that up, I still stand by the fact that I don’t think there is a team that can beat us except for our own team.”

Cameron took advantage of back-to-back hit batsmen to leadoff the fourth as Zane Clutter and Logan Burkett eventually drove them in. The Dragons added their final run in the fifth.

Josh Custer was strong on the hill for the Knights, striking out two and walking two, before being lifted in the sixth for Sonny Peluchette.

“Custer threw a heckuva game,” McConnaughy said. “His last three outings he’s been super. He got a little tired there at the end but Sonny has been that guy we’ve been going to.”

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