CAMBRIDGE - The formula for success in post-season baseball is relatively simple. It usually includes at least two of the following three: solid pitching, timely hitting and strong defense.
Bellaire got all three and earned a return trip to Don Coss Field inside City Park Tuesday afternoon at 5 to face top-seeded Fort Frye by virtue of a 3-1 victory against West Muskingum in a game that lasted just 68 minutes.
"I've been preaching all season about doing the little things," said Bellaire head coach John Patrone. "We made a few mistakes, but we limited them. We were able to do what we needed to do and move on."
BELLAIRE’S Hunter Westlake is congratulated by head coach John Patrone after he connected on a 3-run home run, which sparked the Big Reds to the victory Saturday in Cambridge.
The Big Reds (12-14) and Torandoes found themselves locked in a pitcher's dual as aces Nick Patrone, for the Big Reds, and Jordan Hunkins for the Tornadoes were impressive early.
West Muskingum actually broke through first in the top of the third when it pushed across its lone run. Alex Lynch was driven home on a well-executed safety squeeze play by Nick Hart.
Bellaire didn't push any panic buttons, however.
The Big Reds' offense came alive in the fourth. Tyler West reached on a single and Patrone then drew a walk, putting two aboard for junior Hunter Westlake.
Westlake got ahead in the count and took a Hunkins' fastball deep over the left-center fence for a three-run blast.
"When it came off the bat, it felt good and I thought it had a chance," Westlake said. "It's a great feeling to get a hit like that in the tournament since it matters a lot more than the regular season."
It was Westlake's first home run of the season and Coach Patrone, stationed in the third-base coaches' box, knew it was gone immediately.
"Hunter's been streaky at times this season, but he hits the ball hard," Patrone said. "He's made a few adjustments here in the last week or so and he's been hitting it well."
That was plenty for Nick Patrone, who really settled in after the first three innings.
He did get into a jam in the fifth when West M. had runners on second and third with nary an out. With the infield in, Patrone enduced a come backer for the first out, a ground ball to Westlake, who gunned down a Tornado runner at the plate. Hart was then thrown out trying to steal by Wyatt Back.
West M. went quietly in order in both the sixth and seventh. Patrone finished with eight strikeouts and two walks. He allowed just the two hits in the third.
"We know runs are going to be tough to come by in the tournament," Patrone said. "Nick pitched well, the kids played good defense behind him and that's all I can ask. We just wanted to throw strikes and give ourselves a chance."
West Muskingum 001 000 0 - 1 2 0
Bellaire 000 300 x - 3 4 2
Batteries: Hunkins and A. Every. Patrone and Back.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org