Dylan Gongola, Wheeling Park Shut Out Brooke
WHEELING — Fresh off of Saturday’s Ohio Valley Athletic Conference big school championship, Coach Steve Myers’ Wheeling Park baseball team returned to action Tuesday, once again playing good fundamental baseball and doing the little things needed to continue the Patriots on what is quickly becoming a special season.
Dylan Gongola fired a two-hitter, fanning nine and walking three, while joining James Salvatori and Michael Bittinger with two hits apiece to pace a 12-hit attack as Wheeling Park rolled to a six-inning, 10-0, victory over West Virginia Class AAA, Section One rival Brooke at sunny, but chilly Patriot Field.
With the win the Patriots improve to 10-2 on the campaign and will take this afternoon off before hosting Parkersburg on Thursday, Steubenville on Friday and traveling to Ripley for a Saturday afternoon doubleheader.
The Bruins threatened in the first, getting a lead-off walk and a passed ball, however, the visitors failed to score from second on an Andrew Coursin base hit to right field. Coursin, who had both Bruins’ (8-8) hits, was later thrown out at second on a double-steal attempt, ending the frame.
Park got the only runs it needed in the second, thanks to a pair of hits and two Brooke mistakes. Bittinger led off the inning with a laser double to left-center and went to third on a wild pitch. Bittenger scored when Gage Thomas reached on an error before moving to second on a two-out balk and scoring on Billy Gooch’s RBI single to right making it a 2-0 advantage.
The Patriots broke loose in the third with five consecutive one-out hits against starting, and losing, pitcher Andrew Goettel. Gongola and Gian DeGenova both singled to get things started before Bittinger ripped his second double of the game, this time to deep right field, for an RBI. Salvatori followed with a run-scoring single to center with the hosts making it 5-0 on a successful double-steal. Gage Thomas’ RBI single up-the-middle chased Goettel and made it a 6-0 score.
The hosts added a tally in the fourth with a Noah Sievertson single, a hustling Gongola double to right and an RBI fielder’s choice from DeGenova.
Park finished things off in the sixth, with three Brooke errors once again playing a major part. Gongola reached on a lead-off error and went to second when Bittinger also reached on a one-out miscue that put runners at second and third. Salvatori followed with a two-run single that made it 9-0. After a fielder’s choice sent him second Salvatori came around to score the game-winner when Luke Marsh reached on the third Bruins’ mistake of the final frame.
“Our guys made some good adjustments at the plate early on,” Myers said of his teamm, which was kept off-balance early on by Goettel. “But the mental focus has been there all season by this group collectively. Fundamentally they go out every game and try to be the best they can be and they do a great job of picking each other up when they need to.
“Dylan (Gongola) did a real good job on the mound and was focused the entire game. He was really on (Tuesday). These guys could have very easily came out and not been as focused after what they accomplished Saturday, but they all came out ready to play and they got the job done once again.”
Gongola threw 81 pitches in his six innings of work, but never threw more than 15 in any frame after tossing 19 in the first. Salvatori had two singles and plated three runs while Bittinger doubled twice and chased home a run and Gongola added a single and double for the winners.
Before Tuesday’s game Wheeling Park paid tribute to late Brooke Head Coach Ron Ujcich, who tragically passed away in an accident last October. A banner was hung on the right field fence in Ujcich’s honor. Along with being a long-time mentor of the Brooke baseball and golf teams, Ujcich was also a college teammate of Park Head Coach Steve Myers at West Liberty University.