Are John Patrone's Bellaire Big Reds ahead of schedule? Perish the thought.
With six underclassmen on the field in Monday's OVAC 3-A semifinal game at Barnesville, it was apparent the Reds are no longer a work-in-progress.
Patrone watched his team erupt for a season-high 15 hits enroute to a 11-5 victory over the host Shamrocks at City Park.
BELLAIRE’S Hunter Westlake swings at a pitch during Monday’s OVAC?CLass 3A semifinal game at Barnesville’s Memorial Park. Westlake had a double, home run, single and drove in five runs as the Big Reds toppled the Shamrocks, 11-5.
Monday's victory elevates Bellaire to this weekend's 3-A title tilt. The Big Reds will oppose either Buckeye Trail or Shenandoah, Saturday morning at Steubenville's Vaccaro Field.
Barnesville, which has experienced the highs and lows of an inconsistent season, fell to 10-7 under D.J. Butler.
"When we catch the ball, we've proven we can play with anyone," a disappointed Butler observed. "We made six errors today. We gave away far too many outs."
Bellaire was more than happy to oblige as the Big Reds improved to 12-8. "One of our goals coming into the season was to work to qualify for the OVAC Tournament," Patrone said. "We're excited to advance but our kids would love to take the next step (Saturday)."
Big Reds' freshman Hunter Westlake set the tone on the game's first pitch Monday, hammering a double to left field.
Though both Westlake and teammate Spencer Badia who followed with a single, were both picked off the basepaths, the setback proved temporary.
The two teams were locked up at 1-1 and 2-2 through three frames before Bellaire broke through for five runs in the top of the fourth.
Westlake was at it again, grounding a two-run single up the middle which plated Tyler West and Brady Hall.
Badia's grounder to first enabled Bralen Snell to score. Senior Nick McMahon and sophomore Nick Patrone followed with ribbie singles and it was 7-2.
Barnesville retaliated when designated hitter David Brown singled to plate Mason Plumly. Leadoff hitter Auston Hannahs' sac-fly to center scored Colton Pritchard and it was 7-4.
The Reds, however, had an immediate answer.
Snell lined a one-out double in the fifth. After centerfielder Manny Ray was hit by a Zack Dornon pitch, Westlake stepped in and sent reliever Ian Wells' offering over the fence in left for a three-run bomb and 10-4 Big Reds' upperhand.
"It was great to see Hunter Westlake swing the bat like that," Patrone stated. "All of our guys played a huge role in this win. Hopefully, we keep this momentum going."
McMahon, coming on for starter Nick Patrone, registered the mound win. The duo totaled 12 strikeouts and nine walks.
Westlake collected five RBIs and finished a triple shy of hitting for the cycle. Snell, another freshman, slugged a single and double. Badia, West and junior rightfielder Dalton Conroy each produced multi-hit outings.
Zach Dornon took the mound loss for Barnesville with Wells working two and-two-thirds. The pair fanned four and issued one walk.
'Rocks' catcher Preston Dornon delivered a single, double and two RBIs. Second baseman Nate Wehr singled and doubled. Barnesville stranded 10 baserunners.
"We're disappointed because we know we can play better than we did today," Butler advised. "I'm confident (this) team still has some more wins in them. Now, we'll focus all our attention on (next month's) sectionals."
Bellaire was scheduled to host Cameron this afternoon with Barnesville making a Wednesday trek to Shenandoah.
Bellaire 011 530 1 - 11 15 1
Barnesville 101 210 0 - 5 7 6
Batteries: Patrone, McMahon (4) and Back. Z. Dornon, I. Wells (5) and P. Dornon.
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