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Jackson, Grove Have McLeod Excited at WP

March 21, 2014
By DAVE MORRISON , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING - A mix of old and new await Wheeling Park's baseball team when it kicks off the season.

On the new side there is the upgraded baseball facility. The $230,000 project includes Major League-style dugouts, a new press box and concession stand area, all of which will be heated.

The old is the return of a solid rotation that helped the Patriots finish with a 24-7 record and a run to the Class AAA Region One finals.

Justice Jackson and Michael Grove are the top-of-the-rotation guys, a lefty-righty combination that has Coach Mike McLeod excited to get the season started.

"They are two of our horses and they carried us a long way last season," McLeod said. "Michael Grove (the right-hander) is a junior who is already getting Division I looks and Justice Jackson is a senior and he has teams like West Liberty and (Wheeling) Jesuit looking at him. We feel like we have a solid pitching staff."

So solid in fact that Phillip Bledsoe started the sectional final last year and was the pitcher of record, throwing five solid inning.

"Pitching in a sectional final and getting the victory as a freshman is not an easy thing to do," McLeod said.

Matt Brooks, a senior, rounds out the rotation.

As for the defense, it will be interchangeable and could be different daily.

Dan Baciak is a perfect example.

The junior will play a multitude of positions, from catcher, middle infield and pitcher.

Catcher will be important with returning starter Matt Hackathorn, a senior and an all-state lineman, opting not to play to concentrate on college football.

Jackson and Grove will vary at infield spots when not on the mound and Chalmer Moffett, a three-sport standout, will play first base.

"I like the makeup of this team because a lot of our our infielders can play any position, from third to second," McLeod said.

He also said several freshmen will get a shot.

"We will have some freshmen playing varsity baseball at Wheeling Park," McLeod said. "After seeing a guy like Phil Bledsoe play and pitch in big games, they know if they are good enough they will play and that has them excited."

As is the coach.

"Our expectations are high every year," McLeod said. "Our expectations are to get to Charleston (for the state baseball tournament at Appalachian Power Park) and I think we have the caliber of athletes to do that."

 
 

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