Chris Vargo Stellar In State Tournament Opener
Wheeling Post 1 defeats South Charleston 5-2
By CODY NESPOR
WHEELING — Left-handed pitcher Chris Vargo was one batter away from throwing a complete game Wednesday evening as Wheeling Post 1 defeated South Charleston 5-2 in the opening round of the West Virginia State Legion Baseball Tournament. Vargo, from Wheeling Park, allowed just two runs on five hits in 6 2/3 innings while striking out four batters.
“He had a heck of a game today,” Post 1 coach Jon-Michael Brunner said. “We expect to have a good performance from him and that’s what he did. The off-speed was working, all his pitches he was throwing for strikes, he was locating everything really well. He deserved to have a good outing in the state tournament.”
After starting the game with two easy innings, Vargo struggled to find the strike zone in the top of the third, which threatened to derail his strong start. He threw 25 pitches in the inning and walked two batters.
“We just told him to throw a strike, relax,” Brunner said. “With guys on, sometimes Chris lets that get to him, so a lot of what we talk to him about is just maintaining his composure, taking his time and throwing the ball to Zac (Taylor) behind the plate. That’s what he did. He got out of that jam and we rode him to 103 pitches.”
Vargo ended the third with a flyout by Brayden McCallister and rebounded with quick and efficient fourth and fifth innings. After Vargo pitched out of the jam in the top of the third, Post 1’s offense finally picked him up and put runs on the board in the bottom of the inning.
Right fielder Jared Marsh led-off the inning with a single into right field and Post 1’s small-ball offense was put into action. The next bater, catcher Zac Taylor, laid down a bunt and reached base on a throwing error and was followed by a bunt single by Jack Scouvart. All of a sudden, the bases were loaded with no outs for left fielder Dylan Gongola.
“That’s what we do,” Brunner said. “We small-ball guys, put balls in play, make the defense work. That’s our brand of baseball, that’s what we do and that’s how we’ve always done it.”
Gongola made the small-ball tactics pay off as he roped a ball into right-center field for a two-RBI double that scored Marsh and Taylor and gave Post 1 a 2-0 lead.
Two batters later, second baseman Seth Hand singled in Scouvart to increase the lead to 3-0.
Post 1 added another run in the fourth on an RBI double by Scouvart and another in the fifth when Kaden Yocum scored on a throwing error to make it 5-0.
“Today we were successful with (small ball), a couple of bunts here and there and a couple of errors,” Brunner said. “Dylan had that big hit after the bunt to score a couple of runs early. I think they’re finally buying into what we’re doing with the small-ball kind of game.”
South Charleston’s offense finally struck in the sixth inning. McCallister singled and Tyler Burke was hit by a pitch to put two runners on base and both moved into scoring position on a passed ball. With two outs, designated hitter Broedy Boyce did not let the chance go to waste and dropped a ball into right field for a two-RBI single.
Vargo came back out for the top of the seventh and got two outs, but also allowed a single and a walk to Peyton Stover that brought the game-tying run to the plate. With one out left to record, Brunner went to the bullpen and brought in Madonna right-hander Parker Haney to face South Charleston second baseman Drew Whitman. Haney struck Whitman out on a high fastball to give Post 1 the 5-2 victory.
In the win, Vargo pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits with four strikeouts and three walks. Gongola finished with a double and two RBI, Scouvart had two hits, an RBI and scored a run and Hand had two hits and an RBI. Taylor scored two runs and Yocum and Marsh both had one hit and scored one run each.
South Charleston pitcher Landon Fairchild, from Hurricane, pitched five innings, allowing five runs on six hits while striking out nine. Boyce had a hit and two RBI while McCallister had two hits, one double, and scored a run.
With the win, Post 1 advances to play Parkersburg in the winners’ bracket tonight at 6 p.m. at the JB Chambers I-470 Baseball Complex. Post 1 faced Parkersburg four times this summer, going 1-3. Parkersburg beat them twice last week in the Area One Tournament.
“They’re a good team, they’re really tough,” Brunner said. “They’ve got good pitchers, they’ve got good hitters, they’re well coached and they do a lot of good things so we’re going to have to come out and play our best. It’s nice to be able to play them in the state tournament in the winners’ bracket.”
Earlier in the day Wednesday, Bridgeport defeated Riverside 1-0 and Parkersburg beat Elkins 4-1 in 13 innings. Riverside and Elkins will meet in an elimination game at 10 a.m. today while Bridgeport and South Charleston will play at 2 p.m.