Wheeling Central Maroon Knights Are Regional Bound in Baseball
Central slays Dragons, 11-3
WHEELING — The weather finally cooperated but Wheeling Central still brought the thunder and even some two out lightning to the plate on Wednesday.
The Maroon Knights scored eight runs in the first two innings en route to an 11-3 triumph over Cameron in the decisive Game 3 of the Class A Region One, Section One championship at the I-470 J.B. Chambers Baseball Complex.
After falling behind 1-0 in the series, Central battled back to claim the final two games and earn a matchup against Ritchie County in the regional slated for Monday at I-470.
The change in momentum can be attributed to simply hitting the curveball.
“Something we have talked about this whole series was — they threw us curveballs, away and away,” Central coach Bo McConnaughy said. “We made little adjustments with our batting over the last couple of days in the cage and in the first four or five innings, we executed that to a tee.
“It was a good series, though. (Cameron) had a great season. (Coach Matt Carnahan) has done a great job with Cameron baseball since he came on board and they will be a contender next year, too.”
Putting runs on the scoreboard early and taking command of the game was also a crucial point of discussion from McConnaughy to his team before the game.
“That was tremendous,” McConnaughy said.
“We talked about that, ‘if we come out early and do what we want.’ That was our plan. Put the pedal to the medal and see what happens.”
Avery Lee and Jacob Rine slammed on the gas quickly and gave Central a 1-0 edge — leading off the bottom of the first with back-to-back doubles. An error made it 2-0.
The floodgates opened in the second as the Knights batted around and took advantage of a pair of Cameron errors.
Jacob Rine dropped down a successful sacrifice bunt during the outburst and Angelo Gentile, Dominic Pompeo and Mike Toepher all drove in a run in the six-run inning.
Jordan Waterhouse delivered the big blow with a two-run double to the gap in left center.
Central plated at-least one run in each of the first four innings to take a commanding 11-3 cushion.
The Dragons fought until the end but could not get the big hit as they left 11 runners on base.
“It was a very up and down series,” Carnahan said. “We got them a couple of times this year and they got us a couple of times but they got us in the ones that mattered.
“All the credit goes to them for making the plays. They put the ball in play hard and unfortunately we made a few more mistakes that proved to be costly early in the game.”
Sonny Peluchette earned the start for the Knights and didn’t disappoint. The right-hander struck out eight and walked three in five innings.
“Sonny threw an extremely great game,” Carnahan said. “Credit goes to him, too.”
In relief, Adam Murray — who has been battling a hamstring injury — made his first appearance in over a week and wasted no time making an impact.
He struck out the side in the sixth before holding the Dragons scoreless in the seventh to finish the contest.
“Adam has been suspect for the last two weeks,” McConnaughy said. “He has therapy every day and has worked on his leg. I had him throw a bullpen the other day and he did fine.
“I didn’t want to start him. I wanted to wait until the late innings of the game just to give him a shot and he threw pretty well.
“We didn’t want to take a chance on hurting his leg so we’ll take it easy with him.”
Gentile finished with three hits to lead the Knights, while Pompeo, Toepher and Kyle Newmeyer each delivered two.
The Dragons chipped away at the lead in the third and fourth.
Trin Scott and Noah Neely led off the third with back-to-back hits and Jessop Broughton plated a run on a sacrifice fly. Another run came home on an error.
Scott drove in the third run in the fourth on a RBI single, scoring Travis Mickey who led off the inning with a hit.
Senior Aidan Lucey hustled his way to two doubles and Garrett Scott turned in a single and a double for the Dragons.
“We are losing four seniors,” Carnahan said. “Aidan. It hurts losing a catcher like him that you can rely on defensively to run the show for you out there. It will be hard to replace that.
“Mickey in center roaming out there and he threw a no-hitter for us this year. That’s a big arm we are losing.
“Colton Dobbs is a great athlete with a great arm in right field and Trin Scott was the OVAC Player of the Year.
“It hurts to lose all those guys but we should come back strong next year.”