WELLSBURG - Brooke and John Marshall engaged in one heck of a high school baseball game Friday evening. It seemed more than fitting that the in-season sectional battle should have one heck of an ending.
Down a run heading into the home half of the seventh, the Bruins were able to get something going. Nick Breen smashed a one-out single past shortstop. Stevie Jeffries followed with a drive to left-center that one-hopped over the fence for a ground-rule double.
Kellen Welch then sent a sinking liner toward left. Ryan Gellner came charging in and made a sliding catch.
Breen appeared to properly tag and sprint toward home with what could have the tying run. The umpire, however, saw things differently. When Gellner fired a strike to third, Breen was called out.
The game-ending double play stunned the Bruins and allowed the Monarchs to escape with a 3-2 victory.
"That was a real good high school baseball game," John Marshall's Bob Montgomery said. "You don't see may games end like that. That play at the end there was just great."
Brooke's Ron Ujcich agreed with the caliber of play, adding "that's a tough way to lose. I'll dispute that call for a long time. He did tag. I'm not sure what the umpire was looking at."
With the victory, John Marshall moves to 14-11.
Weather permitting, the Monarchs will tackle top-seeded Cambridge at 11 this morning in the semifinals of the OVAC Class 5A tournament. Parkersburg South and Morgantown will square off in the second contest in Glen Dale.
"We are going against a real good team in Cambridge," Montgomery added. "Plus, both teams have their proms later in the day. We'll be ready to go."
The visitors took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Jake Lucas led off with an infield single, advancing to second when Jeremiah Fromhart was safe on an error. Both advanced on a passed ball. They scored thanks to Zach Winland's double to right.
JM struck again in the third. Todd Schmidt was hit by a pitch, moved up on Winland's infield hit, and crossed the plate on a Brooke throwing error on a double-play attempt.
Lucas got the start for the Monarchs and cruised through the first three innings. Brooke loaded the bases in the fourth on singles by Welch, Ethan Sole and Ricky Molnar. The JM hurler was able to induce an infield fly to end the threat.
Ujcich's club scored both of its runs in the fifth. Russell Schwertfeger got a leadoff single and Heath Hildreth laced a double. Schwertfeger scored on Breen's sacrifice fly to center.
Jeffries worked Lucas for a walk and immediately took off for second. When Lucas made a play on him, Hildreth alertly scampered home. Welch followed with his second hit and Sole drew a free pass. Lucas, however, again responded and recorded the third out.
He went the distance in recording a victory. He scattered nine hits, whiffed seven and walked two.
"In the past, at times, he has been real good for five-or six-plus innings," Montgomery said of Lucas. "He really hung in there. For him to go seven, that was critical for him and us."
Brent Pellen worked the first four frames for Brooke. Hildreth came on in the fourth and held the Monarchs scoreless. Combined, the Bruins hurlers surrendered six hits, fanned six and issued two free passes.
"After the first inning, our pitchers did a real good job," Ujcich noted. "They threw strikes, stayed ahead of the hitters and kept us in the game.
"We did a lot of things right late. Our problem was the mistakes early. We needed to make a couple of plays and didn't. We have to execute defensively. That let them in the game and changed the whole tempo."
Brooke, now 10-11, returns to action Tuesday, visiting Big Red.
"The boys fought hard," Ujcich said. "They battled back. It was just a tough way to lose."
Friday's victory gives John Marshall a first-round bye when Class AAA sectional play opens in early May.
"When Brooke, Wheeling Park and us play regular-season games, they matter toward the sectional," Montgomery explained. "With this win, we now get a first- round bye. The idea is that maybe we use a few less pitchers during the week."