MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For six innings, nearly everything went Morgantown’s way as the Mohigans were in complete control of Friday’s Class AAA Region I, Section 1 championship round matchup with Wheeling Park at Dale Miller Field.
But the Patriots refused to give in, and as a result they overcame a 12-4 deficit by producing eight runs in the seventh inning to pull even.
The contest went to extra innings, where the Mohigans’ plate discipline paid off in a big way as Domenic Colasante drew a bases loaded walk in the eighth to send Morgantown to a 13-12 victory and sectional championship.
“We go back to the culture of our program. It’s all about competing, respect, toughness, resiliency and integrity,” MHS coach Pat Sherald said. “That’s what we talk about throughout the whole season — winning every pitch and the next pitch mentality. Our mentality is always we have to forget about the last pitch and focus on the next pitch.”
The Mohigans (18-7) advance to regional action, where the winner of Saturday’s matchup between Bridgeport and University awaits.
After Morgantown scored five runs in the fifth to up a 7-4 advantage to eight runs, the Patriots needed an improbable rally to extend the game. On an evening it recorded 18 hits, Wheeling Park found a way to do just that.
“When you have a team that can come back from eight runs down at the end of the game, it says something about the boys and their character and heart,” Park coach Steve Myers said. “All the things that we as coaches try to instill, they showed that today. It wasn’t the ending we wanted, but it was one heck of an exciting ball game.”
After Park loaded the bases with no outs, the Mohigans brought in Ryan Fluharty to relieve Aidan Frombach on the mound. Fluharty immediately hit Gian Degenova to force in a run that allowed the Patriots to trail by seven.
After the first out of the inning, Quinn Jamison followed with a two-run single that brought about more hope for the Patriots, who then got Nate Rittinger’s run-scoring infield single to trail 12-8.
With momentum on its side, Wheeling Park continued to draw closer and immediately made it a three-run game on Michael Bittinger’s RBI double to left. Luke Marsh followed with a two-run single to right that made it 12-11 and created even more energy for a Patriots’ team that wasn’t lacking it at that point.
Fluharty struck out Degenova for the second out, leaving the Patriots’ final hopes to Braydon Kupsky. Kupsky rose to the occasion with a solid single to right that scored courtesy runner Will James to knot the game at 12.
“We said coming in, ‘anything can happen,’ Anything did happen there until the end and our players just fought and gave their best effort,” Myers said.
Kupsky had also taken over on the mound with two outs in the sixth and tossed a scoreless seventh to force extras. An infield single from Jared Marsh with one out in the top of the eighth, combined with a sacrifice bunt, allowed WPHS to put the go-ahead run in scoring position. But Mohigans’ pitcher Dylan Travinski induced consecutive outs through the air, the second of which was an above average play from centerfielder Aaron Jamison on a well-struck ball off the bat of Nate Bittinger.
“That kid works so hard in our practices on his defense,” Sherald said. “It doesn’t surprise me that he made the catch, but he probably won the ball game by making that play.”
“That was a heck of a play and he got a heck of a jump. That’s down in a lot of other places,” Myers said. “If that’s a base hit, things change, but those kind of players make those plays when the game is on the line. A big-time player made a big-time play when the game mattered.”
That would be the Patriots’ final at bat.
Ty Galusky led off the home half of the eighth with a single and moved to second when Caleb Nutter drew a base-on-balls. Mason McDonald, who was brought in to run for Galusky, took third as both baserunners moved up on a wild pitch that left first base open and led to an intentional free pass for Lance Whanger.
Kupsky followed by walking Colasante, allowing McDonald to score the winning run and the Mohigans to prevail.
“With a 3-0 count, he had the take sign,” Sherald said. “I’m thinking infield in and Dom is the right man in the right spot there to get a hard-hit ball for a run and hopefully percentages played our way in that situation.”
MHS beat Park 3-2 earlier in the week to put itself in the driver’s seat of the section, and although the Mohigans entered Friday with double the margin for error, they jumped on the Patriots early to apply more pressure. Jeffrey Poach’s two-out single enabled Aaron Jamison to score the game’s first run in the first inning after Jamison had belted a ground rule double an at bat earlier.
Colasante was hit by a pitch with the bags packed in the second that allowed MHS to lead 2-0, and Jacob Kennell’s sacrifice fly along with Fluharty’s RBI single, left Sherald’s team with a 4-0 lead through two innings.
With two runners on in the fourth, Poach singled and it led to two errors that created three runs on the play, with Fluharty, Jamison and Poach all touching the plate for a 7-0 MHS advantage.
WPHS got back in the game with a four-run fifth that featured two-run singles from Luke Marsh and Kupsky. However, the Patriots ran into an out that inning, which ended with their second double play of the game to prevent them from further cutting into what became a 7-4 deficit.
The Mohigans scored five in the sixth to gain what looked to be a plenty comfortable advantage at the time. That frame was highlighted by Jamison’s two-run home run — his second long ball this week against the Patriots. It also featured Nutter’s two-run double and Whanger’s RBI single, before WPHS staged the furious rally that allowed it to play an extra-inning game for the second straight day following a nine-inning win against John Marshall.
“Up until the top of the seventh inning, we played a very good ball game defensively for the most part and offensively,” Sherald said. “Guys had a lot of quality at bats and we went out there and threw the ball in the strike zone and the guys really competed.”
Jamison finished 3-for-4 with three runs and two RBIs to key the Mohigans’ 12-hit attack.
Travinski was the final of five MHS pitchers and tossed a scoreless eighth to record the win. Starting pitcher Caleb Cottler threw four scoreless frames before being charged with the four fifth-inning runs.
The Patriots’ Luke Myers came on in the second inning and had the lengthiest outing of four pitchers. He allowed three runs on five hits in three innings.
Michael Bittinger and Kupsky had three hits apiece, while Luke Marsh, Jared Marsh, Nate Bittinger and Jamison added two apiece in a setback that leaves Park with a 12-10 record for the season.
“That’s a very good ball club,” Sherald said of the Patriots. “They really competed. You enjoy the win, but you hate to see them lose at the same time.”