WHEELING - Taking advantage of six Brooke errors, the Wheeling Park's baseball team scored the winning run without the benefit of a hit in the bottom of the seventh inning to slip past the Bruins, 4-3, Monday evening at Patriot Field.
Cameron Amend led off the decisive frame by reaching on a two-base error when his ground ball got through Brooke shortstop Steven Jeffries. With Amend on the move, Dylan Janeczko's hard bunt was fielded at the mound by Heath Hildreth and when he threw the ball wildly past first base it allowed the game-ending run to cross the plate.
Park (3-5) managed four hits off Hildreth, none of which accounted for an RBI. After singles by Janeczko and Ethan Jacobs and a wild pitch to open the bottom of the second, the first run of the game scored on Kylar Fitzpatrick's bounce out to the right side of the infield.
Wheeling Park’s Andrew Kowalo, left, watches the pitch as Brooke’s Alec Buchmelter prepares for a pick off attempt.
Photo by Rick Thorp
With two outs, Hildreth struck out Austin Schwanenberger on a pitch in the dirt that got past catcher Nick Breen as Jacobs slid in safely. Breen's strong throw from well behind the plate nearly nipped Schwanenberger at first which would have ended the inning without the run counting.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Patriots went up 3-0 as J.R. Pyle singled on a line drive to center and courtesy runner Julian Figaretti advanced to third after Kelean Welch couldn't come up with Amend's ground ball at second base. Janeczko then picked up the RBI when his hard smash was fielded near the foul line behind first base by Alec Buchmelter, whose only play was to step on the bag as Figaretti scored.
First-year Park coach Mike McLeod was pleased to see his team come out on the right side of the scoreboard after the hard-fought game with their Section One rival.
''The kids showed a lot of character today," McLeod said. ''This year has been all about adversity and the important thing is how you handle it.
''This is a big win because of the sectional but we have a long way to go and we are still piecing it together.''
The Park coach also admitted feeling like kicking himself for pitching to Breen, Brooke's two-time all-stater, in a crucial situation in the top of the fifth when the Bruins rallied to tie the game.
With one run in and Bruins stationed at second and third with two out, Breen laced the first pitch he saw from Ethan Jacobs back up the middle into center field to tie the game.
The inning opened with Jacobs replacing starting pitcher Andrew Kowalo and walking Jefferies on four pitches. Aaron Walker bunted him to second and Austin Schambach, the No. 9 hitter in the Brooke lineup, picked up an RBI with his single to right field.
Schambach was erased when Russell Schwertfeger reached on a fielder's choice but Hildreth singled to left and both runners moved up an extra base when the throw went to third base, setting up Breen for his game-tying hit.
''The caliber of player he (Breen) is, I shouldn't have given him that free shot," McLeod said.
If McLeod was lamenting his decision, there wasn't a whole lot Brooke coach Ron Ujcich could have done about his team's fielding miscues.
"We didn't make the routine plays and ultimately that is what beat us," Ujcich said after Brooke's record fell to 3-5. ''That is something that has been hurting us during the early part of the season. In a few situations, we've been able to work out of them but they keep coming back to haunt us."
Ujcich was more than satisfied, however, with the pitching effort he got from Hildreth, who struck out five and allowed just two harmless walks.
Before those free passes, Hildreth did not throw a pitch out of the strike zone in the opening inning, retiring the side on just eight pitches.
''After that inning we talked to him about getting ahead of the batters and working on top. I thought he pitched a great game overall," Ujcich added.
Pitching was also a bright spot of the Patriots as Kowalo made his first start of the spring. He had been limited to playing shortstop due to an elbow injury he sustained late during the basketball season. The junior ace of the Park staff looked good during his four innings, not allowing a walk and picking up three strikeouts.
Kowalo pitched out of huge jam in the third inning after Jeffries singled to start the frame and advanced all the way to third when the ball got past Jacobs in right field. But the Brooke baserunner remained frozen at third when Kowalo struck out Walker, then retired Schambach on a one-hopper back to mound. The inning ended thanks to a sparkling defensive play from Amend at second base as he denied Schwertfeger of an RBI single by fielding a hard grounder and nipping the runner at first.
After struggling during his first inning of relief, Jacobs settled down to retire the final seven batters he faced, striking out two and getting three putouts on infield pop flies.
''Andrew threw about 80 percent (Monday)," McLeod said. ''He did a good job of mixing up and spotting his pitches. We weren't sure how far he could go and I told Ethan to be ready from the first pitch. Once Ethan settled down, he also pitched well."
McLeod also remains unconcerned about the Patriots below .500 record after eight games. ''We don't focus on that record.This isn't like football. Everybody gets to play in the sectional. If you start focusing on the record, you lose sight of what you want to do."