With the Steele and Cook Insurance Ohio Valley Baseball League playoffs not too far off, every game has post-season implications.
Wednesday night's game between the Wheeling Cardinals and St. Clairsville pitted two of the top four teams in the league, and the two didn't disappoint a nice crowd that showed up at sun-splashed Memorial Park.
The Titans (13-4) needed eight innings to knock off the Cardinals (10-5) by a 3-2 count.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE’S Mackenzie Koehler slides safely into third base in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s game against the Wheeling Cardinals. He scored the winning run one out later.
"We talked after Monday's game that we end our regular season against some of the top teams in the league," St. Clairsville manager Adam Vincenzo said. "In our opinion, all of our remaining games are playoff games. We wouldn't have it any other way. That's what we want to get us prepared for the playoffs."
It appeared as though the hosts had things wrapped up in regulation time, but the Cardinals had second thoughts.
The Titans led 2-0 entering the sixth inning, but the visitors struck once in the sixth and another time with two outs in the seventh to tie the score and force extra frames.
With the score deadlocked in the bottom of the eighth, winning pitcher Mackenzie Koehler led off with a triple to the fence in left-center. One out later, Dom Garay sent a towering fly ball to right-center that was dropped, allowing Koehler to score the game-winning run.
"We're a resilient bunch," Vincenzo said. "We're never going to give up and we'll battle until the end."
St. Clairsville took a 1-0 lead in the third when Jared Clovis walked and stole second with two outs. Myron Jellison then struck out, but the ball was dropped and he beat the throw to first as Clovis took third. Anthony Pierro's bouncer up the middle was backhanded, but the throw to first was not in time as Clovis raced home.
The Titans made it 2-0 in the fourth as Cory Walter drilled a leadoff double over the centerfielder's head. He would trot home on T.J. Sliva's single to right, making it 2-0.
Wheeling chipped away, tallying its first run in the sixth when Anthony SanFelippo walked and moved to second on a wild pitch. Ricky Szeligo's sacrifice fly to right moved SanFelippo to third. With two outs, Sean Edge smacked a single to right to drive in SanFelippo.
The Cardinals drew even in the seventh. After Koehler easily retired the first two batters, he walked No. 9 hitter Josh McKown before hitting leadoff hitter Andrew Henry with a pitch. SanFelippo's single to right plated McKown to tie the game. An error moved both runners up and Szeligo was walked intentionally.
However, Koehler, a former St. Clairsville High School standout, got out of further trouble by retiring Doug Brown on a fielder's choice.
"Mackenzie is a leader," Vincenzo noted. "He pitched a great game and came up with the big hit."
Koehler finished with four strikeouts and six walks. He allowed four hits and needed 117 pitches (64 strikes) to get the win.
Sliva had a pair of base knocks for the winners.
St. Clairsville is idle until Tuesday when it hosts defending champion Weirton. The Cardinals visit Barton Friday.
Wheeling 000 001 10 - 2 4 2
St. Clairsville 001 100 01 - 3 6 1
Batteries: Szeligo, SanFelippo (7) and Keane. Koehler and Jellison.
North can be reached at email@example.com