Expectations Don’t Change at Wheeling Park
By JOSH STROPE
WHEELING — After three straight appearances in the state baseball tournament, Wheeling Park knows it will be the hunted. And that is a role Coach Mike McLeod relishes.
The Patriots won’t be as senior-laden as in years past, but the goal is still the same — Appalachian Power Park in Charleston.
“We had a senior group that raised this program and set the bar kind of high,” McLeod said. “We are going to be young, but I tell everyone every year, I will take our group over anyone.
“We are not starting from scratch, we have some good players with some experience, but we will be going back to a lot of basics. We are going to roll the ball out there this spring with this group and expect to win.”
The Patriots will be led by three returning seniors and they are good ones.
Left-hander Jub Delbrugge started in the semifinal loss to eventual state champion Jefferson and there is no one McLeod would like better on the mound.
His twin brother, Jarrett, will give Jub solid defense behind him at shortstop.
Speedy leadoff hitter and center fielder Collin Hlad is already getting some college looks.
“Our seniors are not real vocal, but they lead by example,” McLeod said. “The way they practice and how hard they work, the young guys are starting to fall right into line.
“Jub Delbrugge wants one more shot on the mound to guide his team at the state tournament.”
Another senior on the team is Rush Seidler at third base.
Joining Jarrett Delbrugge in the infield will be sophomore Jacob Shia, who started last season as a freshman.
One area McLeod is particularly confident in is his pitching staff. Behind Jeb Delbrugge, juniors Zach Hickman and Jarrod Jones (who will also play first) will be counted on, as well as sophomores Brock Archer and Ben Taylor.
“I like our pitching and hopefully that translates into the field,” McLeod said. “When you are six or seven deep, that really helps you when you are playing Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and a doubleheader on Saturday.”
Nolan Mattern will be catching, along with Bryce Bauer.
Others battling for spots are Ryan Hummel, Stephen Graebe, Trevor Thomas, Ross Salvetori and Zach Khale.
“We are trying to develop and we know that is not going to happen the first week,” McLeod said. “When you play sports at Wheeling Park, these are some of the best athletes in the state and it won’t take much to get them going. The skill set is there, just a mindset of getting them to do what they need to do.
“We have Steubenville and Hurricane and others on our schedule, so we know we are going to take our lumps. But we hope that helps the kids grow. The expectation is to get back to Charleston, get over that hump and get the win.
“We are never complacent with just getting to Charleston. Once you get there, only four teams remain and only one wins. It is not easy, you need some luck, and you have to continue to work hard.
“I tell them the senior class last year did you no good. You are the hunted. The Morgantowns and the John Marshalls are gunning to knock you off. You are young, it is what it is. Now go play.”
March 29: Steubenville 5 p.m.
March 30: University 5 p.m.
March 31: at Morgantown 5 p.m.
April 1: at Park. South (2) noon
April 3: at Brooke 5 p.m.
April 4: at John Marshall 5 p.m.
April 6: at University 5 p.m.
April 7: Morgantown 5 p.m.
April 8: at Canfield 11 a.m.
April 11: St. Clairsville 5 p.m.
April 13: at Steubenville 5 p.m.
April 15: Warren (2) noon
April 19: Brooke 5 p.m.
April 20: at River View 4:30 p.m.
April 22: OVAC Semis TBA
April 24: John Marshall 5 p.m.
April 25: at St. Clairsville 5 p.m.
April 27: at Fairmont Senior 5 p.m.
April 29: at Capital (2) 1 p.m.
May 1: Harrison Central 5 p.m.
May 3: at Ursuline 4:30 p.m.
May 4: at Edison 5 p.m.
May 6: Ripley (2) noon