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BASEBALL: Wheeling Park Eyes Big Picture

Patriots defeat Red Devils, 4-3

April 17, 2013
By JIM ELLIOTT, Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Sophomore Chalmer Moffett came off the bench in the later innings Tuesday against St. Clairsville and eventually ripped a two-run single to right field that gave Wheeling Park some breathing room in the sixth inning.

Turns out, it didn't count. A rain and lightning storm halted - and eventually stopped - play midway through the sixth and all of the official stats reverted back to the last completed inning, giving the Patriots a 4-3 victory.

It hardly mattered to Wheeling Park coach Mike McLeod, whose team is off to an eye-opening 14-1 start. He tends to look at the bigger picture.

Article Photos

Wheeling Park catcher Andrew Kawolo heads up the line to field an off-line throw as St. Clairsville’s Turner Provost scores during the third inning of their game Tuesday.

''Like I tell them,'' he said, ''it's all practice till the sectional.''

Whether the hit counted or not, McLeod knows he's got guys who have proved they can get a big hit off the bench. Or throw some quality innings like the four Trevor Stewart, a senior who wasn't on the varsity club last season, gave him Tuesday.

Teams that plan on making more than a cameo appearance in the postseason need guys like that.

McLeod has them.

''We have a good group of kids that are baseball kids,'' he said. ''Everyone's willing to accept their role. I called everyone into my office, and I told them what their role was. When you have good baseball kids, sometimes things come together.''

There's a little insight how these Patriots - seemingly out of nowhere - have won 14 of their first 15 games

They pull for each other.

''We laugh together, we hang out together, we eat together,'' McLeod said. ''And I know it sounds cliche - and I'm not really into cliche's - but they are really a close-knit group that loves being around the game of baseball. And that makes it fun for me.''

Still, jokes and sandwiches don't win many baseball games.

This club has its share of talent, beginning with senior Andrew Kawolo, who scattered five hits in seven innings against the No. 6 team in the state during the weekend.

On this team, everyone seemingly has a story.

Football speedster Eric Banks didn't play baseball last season. He is now, and no one goes first to third faster than that kid.

Justice Jackson, who hasn't done a lot of pitching, yielded four hits in six innings against always-tough Hurricane last weekend.

Eric Crow is a sophomore who has impressed the coaches with his outfield play and his bat.

Senior Ethan Jacobs hasn't pitched yet. When he's ready, he'll likely get the ball in big spots in the postseason.

On Tuesday, four different players pinch hit. They went 1-for-3 with a hit by pitch and two RBI.

It's anything but a nine-man club.

''I like to give guys ample opportunity to play because it helps keep the morale up,'' McLeod said. ''You keep a kid on the team and even though he knows his role, I like to get kids in the game and intertwine them with our leaders. That makes them feel good about themselves even though they're not (necessarily) going to start or play a major role. We can still get this done, no matter who is in there.''

They're certainly hoping the second half of the season goes as well as the first..

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