Wheeling Park to Play for OVAC Title After 7-5 Win Over University High
WHEELING — The Wheeling Park baseball team was faced with a tough challenge on Saturday afternoon and it didn’t back down.
After watching a 5-1 lead in the fifth inning slip away in the OVAC 5A Semifinals, the Patriots collected themselves and plated two runs in the bottom of the sixth to defeat University 7-5 to earn a spot in the OVAC Championship against Morgantown with the date and place to be determined.
Senior leadoff hitter and shortstop Avery Lee made his presence felt in the batter’s box and on the basepaths as he patiently drew a walk during the sixth in a 5-5 deadlock.
He then stole second and senior second baseman Noah Seivertson put the ball in play and hustled down the line, forcing the pitcher to rush his throw over the first baseman’s head, allowing Lee to race home for the go-ahead run.
A Dylan Gongola RBI hit put the finishing touches on the Park victory.
“I think the biggest takeaway from the day is that we played as a team,” Park coach Steve Myers said. “They hung in there and picked each other up and that’s kind of who they are. They are all close friends and we couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Lee finished with three walks, two stolen bases and scored every time he reached safely.
“He’s a great addition,” Myers said of Lee, who transferred to Park this year from Wheeling Central. “It feels like every time I look up he’s standing at first, then he’s standing at second and then he’s standing at third. We’re happy to have him here. He’s a competitor and we saw what he’s capable of (Saturday) for sure. He’s a great kid.”
Offensively, Wheeling Park was led by center fielder James Salvatori, who ripped two singles, a double and drove in three runs after belting his first home run of the season last week.
“James is one of a kind,” Myers said with a laugh. “We’re extremely happy that he’s here with us, as well.”
Lee led off the game with a walk, stole second and was brought home on a line drive hit to left field by Salvatori for a 1-0 cushion.
Again in the third, Lee led off the inning with a walk, which was followed by a Seivertson single and a Salvatori two-run knock to drive them both home.
Salvatori raced home on an error to make it a 4-0 advantage.
The Hawks got on the board in the fifth when Wenkai Campbell drew a two-out, bases loaded walk but the damage was limited by Park relief pitcher Billy Gooch, who collected a strikeout to end the frame.
Salvatori continued to swing a hot bat in the bottom of the fifth as he doubled with a rocket off the bat and into center field.
He scored when a swinging strike three got away from the catcher and rolled to the backstop.
University’s first six hitters reached base safely in the sixth — three walks, two hits and one error — and four scored to tie the game until Michael Bittinger came on to pitch.
Bittinger induced a flyout to center, then earned a strikeout and a groundout to keep the game deadlocked at 5-5, allowing his offense to go to work.
“Michael did a great job coming in to finish the game,” Myers said. “He’s a competitor and a very good baseball player.”
Bittinger also slammed the door in the seventh and Lee, Seivertson and first baseman Gage Thomas ended the game with 6-4-3 double play.
Bittinger and catcher Luke Marsh each delivered two hits at the dish.
Seth Hand turned in a solid start for Park, going 4.2 innings with three hits and two walks, while only allowing one run.
University hurt itself in several aspects of the game, leaving 14 runners stranded on base and committing five errors.