WHEELING - If there is one thing Wheeling Park coach Mike McLeod and Steubenville coach Fred Heatherington can agree on, it's that Big Red did not play its usual game Wednesday in a 9-2 loss to the Patriots in Wheeling.
''(Steubenville) was uncharacteristic,'' McLeod pointed out. ''Normally they're pretty solid. They didn't have any errors in their first game and that's what you expect. You have to normally play a perfect game against a perfect program.''
Heatherington concurred in his own evaluation of his team's performance.
Wheeling Park’s Matt Hackathorn (25) hits a pitch thrown by Steubenville’s Evan Westlake and earns a single during Wednesday’s game in Wheeling.
''It sure wasn't our day, that's for sure,'' he said. ''They put the ball in play and we didn't make the plays. We weren't ready to play and it showed in the field.
''Give them credit. They put the ball in play at good times, and we didn't.''
After Eric Banks got to third following a wild pitch and an error on the catcher in the first, Michael Grove drove one into shallow right field to bring Banks in and Park (6-0) had an early 1-0 lead.
The Patriots went right back to work in the bottom of the second inning as Jesse Hartley was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Matt Hackathorn. Hackathorn then hit a line drive past second to bring in Justice Jackson and it was 2-0 Park.
Julian Figaretti came in as a courtesy runner for Hackathorn and was brought in when Banks was hit by a pitch.
''They gave us some opportunities and we took advantage of them,'' McLeod said. ''Not to take anything away from our guys. We played hard and did the things we were supposed to do when teams make mistakes, and we took advantage of it.''
When the inning was over, Park had built a 5-0 lead and then added three more runs in the fourth with hits by Grove and Ethan Jacobs.
''We had some key hits,'' McLeod noted. ''That always helps.''
Pat Pizzoferrato scored in the fifth for Steubenville (3-1) off a deep drive into left field by Justin Corsi, but Park answered right back in the sixth when Jackson brought in Andrew Kowalo to make it 9-1.
A Corsi flyout in the seventh gave Matt Petrella time to score as the teams arrived at the final score.
''We have a lot of speed in our lineup and it puts a lot of pressure on the defense to make plays,'' McLeod said. ''A couple balls we hit at the beginning, (Bryan) Pierro, who is a great athlete, came up with it clean, but it only takes just one hesitation when you got guys that can run like we can. We take advantage of our speed.''
Eric Crow earned a victory for the Patriots and led a pitching staff that finished with seven strikeouts.
''That's one of the things that's going to be our Achilles heel, is our pitching,'' McLeod said. ''We have some guys who can throw the baseball and we count on each and every one of them. We anticipate them throwing strikes.''