WHEELING, W.Va. — Wheeling Park entered this past week having won eight straight games and 11 of 12 overall prior to a Monday loss to Oak Glen. The Patriots added a win later in the week over St. Clairsville, Ohio to improve their record to 14-5 overall as Park targets a deeper postseason run after a disappointing sectional championship loss a season ago.
“It’s kind of neat because the guys we have now are ‘baseball guys,'” said head coach Mike McLeod. “Baseball is a game of highs and lows and to channel your emotions. Don’t go too high or too low, but be on an even keel – just show up with a business attitude. It’s kind of what we’re leaning towards.”
Senior Justice Jackson and junior Michael Grove have led the way for Park on the year – Grove has maintained a .480 batting average with 30 hits, 20 RBIs and just one strikeout on the season. Jackson has posted a .400 batting average with 20 hits, including five doubles.
The two are also at the top of the pitching rotation for the Patriots as well. Grove entered the end of the week with a 3-1 record and 1.31 ERA – he has 34 strikeouts in 20 innings and two saves. Jackson has produced a 3-1 record as well, with 20 strikeouts in 22 innings and a 4.25 ERA.
“They’re the main leaders. If they go, we go,” McLeod said. “They’re the thoroughbreds that drive our team. If they go on the mound, we’re going to go. If they go at the plate, we’re going to go.
Speed kills – and that has been Wheeling Park’s identity on the base paths throughout the year.
“From top to bottom, the thing that we try to do the most, is we have a lot of speed,” McLeod said. “We have guys we can flat out run. So we try and put as much pressure on the defensive as we can, so we stretch our leads out.”
Three of Wheeling Park’s five losses this year have come in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Patriots’ baseball program, meanwhile, has received a significant boost with $230,000 worth of athletic facility upgrades this year to go towards improvements to their field, press box, dugouts, concessions and seating.
Wheeling Park begins sectional play this upcoming week at Brooke.
Pitching key for Man:
The Man Hillbillies are looking to get back to the stature of their 2009 and 2010 state runner-up teams. Coach Larry Vance’s squad entered the end of the past week with a 14-8. The Hillbillies also own two notable wins over regional challenger Valley Fayette.
Man is led on the mound by two left-handed pitchers in sophomore Jake Adkins and junior Braden Griffin.
“I’d match those two up with anyone in Class A,” said Vance. “Griffin is on track to play college ball in D1 or D2. If we get to the state tournament, it’s because of our pitching.”
Hillbillies’ senior catcher Cayce Mullins, meanwhile, has thrown out 70 percent of base runners attempting to steal on the season.
“He has a quick release and if the pitchers have a quick release, then (he’s) most likely throwing a runner out,” Vance said.
Man begins its sectional play this coming week against Tug Valley.
Notre Dame edges Bridgeport in 11 innings:
Notre Dame’s Josh Baker doubled and scored on a wild pitch to notch the Irish a 2-1 win in 11 innings over Bridgeport Thursday night at Notre Dame. The Irish improve to 20-6 overall, dropping Bridgeport to 22-5 record.
The Blue Devils add a walk-off win, followed by an LKC championship:
St. Marys picked up another win on Thursday night, taking down Gilmer County (19-8) 2-1 in walk-off fashion. Garrett Furr brought in Michael Fox for the game-winning run in the seventh inning. Robbie Harper went 7 innings on the mound, giving up four hits and striking out 16.
St. Marys (24-1) then won the LKC title on Friday night with a 10-0 win over Ravenswood. It’s the first LKC title for the Blue Devils since 2002.