MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Wheeling Park jumped out to a 4-0 first inning lead on Friday night as the Patriots went on to beat Morgantown 9-6 in the Class AAA Region 1 baseball final, advancing into next week’s state tournament.
It’s the first baseball state tournament appearance for Wheeling Park since 1989.
“I’m just excited for our kids, this is always a goal for anyone,” said Wheeling Park coach Mike McLeod. “I started with this senior group when they were freshmen and I told them that one day we would get here – and now we’re here. The kids deserve all the credit – they work hard, they’re in the gym sweating and swinging.
“It’s a piece of history – I told them we had a chance to make history,” he continued. “I challenged them to be a part of that.”
Morgantown starting pitcher Nick Gallagher didn’t record an out as he gave up a single and two walks in the first before Sloan Nesbit entered the contest for Morgantown on the mound with the bases loaded. Wheeling Park starting pitcher Michael Grove helped his own cause with a two-run double to put the Patriots on the board – a lead they would hold throughout.
“Grove is a great pitcher of ours and if we could just score some runs and get out of the gates early, we could figure what they were doing and he would keep us right where we needed to be,” McLeod said. “I think he’s a Division I pitcher and that’s what they do, they lead the team. He’s only a junior, so luckily for us he comes back next year.
Grove was excellent on the mound for the Patriots, who led 7-0 after five innings, striking out nine before exiting in the sixth. Morgantown rallied for two runs in the sixth and four more in the seventh, but it was too little too late as the Patriots move on to face Riverside in state tournament play on Friday of next week from Charleston.
“Everyone on our team does what they’re asked to do and they know their role,” he said. “I love all 18 guys that are in there. We’re going to do what we do. We’re going to prepare as we would for anyone, see the ball and put it in play.”
A win for Morgantown, meanwhile, would have given the Mohigans their first trip to the state tournament since 1976.