WHEELING - Under normal circumstances, Steubenville baseball coach Fred Heatherington wouldn't be happy if the Big Red players kept trying to hit the ball in the air.
But with a fierce wind creating a jet stream from left field to right Wednesday at the Wheeling Park High School diamond, Steubenville was able to take advantage of the unusual conditions. Even Big Red's pop flies played major havoc with the Patriots infielders and outfielders as least four balls that would have been easy outs on a typical day ended up falling in fair territory. Steubenville also bombed two long home runs on the way to a 15-2, five-inning thumping of the host team.
''We hit more fly balls than they did," a smiling Heatherington said after Big Red was able to rebound from a poor performance in losing its opener to Toronto earlier in the week. ''Normally, we want them to hit the ball hard on the ground but we were trying to get everything up (Wednesday).
Steubenville pitcher Justin Corsi (10) works to the plate as Wheeling Park’s Ethan Jacobs (20) leads off second base Wednesday at Wheeling Park High School. At left is Big Red shortstop Bryan Pierro (7).
''The most surprising thing was nobody on either team was able to hit any balls in right field where they might easily have gone out. But (Michael) Camilletti put a charge in that ball he hit over the center field fence. It would have been a home run with or without any wind.''
After a quick three innings of scoreless baseball dominated by the starting pitchers from both teams, Big Red exploded for five runs in the top of the fourth, the key blast being designated hitter Camilletti's three-run shot that easily cleared the extended wall at the 350-foot mark in straightaway center field.
Steubenville got rolling with one down in the frame by raking five straight hits. Lucas ''Lucky" McClurg slapped a single up the middle, stole second and carried home the first run when JoJo Pierro banged a hit to left and took an extra base when the ball was misplayed in the outfield.
Pat Pizzoferrato then reached on an infield single to the left side as his roller couldn't be fielded in time to make a play by Park pitcher Ethan Jacobs. On the next pitch, Jacobs got the ball up in in the strike zone and Camilletti jumped all over it for a three-run homer that extended the lead to 4-0.
Ryan Vojdovich then hit a high popper that started in foul territory well off the third base line but the ball was blown back into fair territory and fell untouched for a another infield hit. The fifth run of the inning scored after another ball off the bat of Mason Heatherington started in the same direction, and also came back in fair territory, finally dropping off the glove of a lunging Patriots infielder for an error.
Trailing 5-0 entering the bottom of the fourth inning, the Patriots got a leadoff walk from Dylan Janeczko, the only free pass allowed by winning pitcher Justin Corsi. Zach Drake's ground ball single, a wild pitch and Justice Jackson's two-run single to left field cut the deficit to 5-2..
''I liked the way we bounced back and got those two runs," Wheeling Park coach Mike McLeod said. ''It's still early in the year and our kids are learning and growing every day.
''That wind was treacherous but give Steubenville credit.They have a great program and are very well-coached. We didn't hit many fly balls and they took advantage of the wind. Except for those balls that got up into the wind, I think we played pretty well defensively.''
Heading into the fifth inning with the game still in reach, the first-year Park coach decided to make a pitching change, pulling Jacobs and bringing in young sophomore Eric McCave.
''Ethan experienced some tightness in his elbow and I didn't want to risk sending him back out there,'' McLeod said. ''We're little short on pitching right now. We're four games into the season and we have yet to use our No. 1 guy, Andrew Kowalo, yet.
''He injured his elbow playing basketball and we're being cautious with him. If this was May and we were getting ready to play in the sectional tournament, that would be a different story. There's just no hurry this time of the year.''
After sending 10 batters to the plate in the fourth, Steubenville put the game away by scoring 10 runs on nine hits during the top of the fifth to bring the mercy rule into play.
Two more balls that might have been caught ended up dropping safely to the grass during the rally, but Big Red also collected singles by Pizzoferrato, Camilletti, Vojdovich, Matt Petrella, Mason Heatherington and McClurg along with Pierro's three-run blast over the fence in left field that concluded the scoring. Petrella's hit accounted for two runs, while Camilletti, Mason Heatherington and McClurg added one RBI each in the fifth.
Corsi went the distance, striking out six and allowing a half-dozen hits. He struck out the side in the first inning and half of his whiffs came on called third strikes.