By SETH STASKEY
Times Leader Sports Editor
STEUBENVILLE - Baseball is the ultimate team game.
Bellaire shortstop Spencer Badia waits to make the tag on a Coshocton player at second base during Thursday night’s Division III district semifinal contest at Vaccaro Field. View additional photos at cu.timesleaderonline.com
Bellaire’s Hunter Westlake makes a throw to first during Thursday night’s game.
Bellaire proved that to be accurate Thursday evening in the Division III District Tournament at Steubenville's Vacarro Field.
Just four days after mowing St. Clairsville down, John Patrone handed his son, Nick, the ball again. By no means, however, did he have his best stuff this time out. His command was off and he was slightly wild in the strike zone.
However, against the Red Devils last Saturday, the Big Reds' offense was basically silenced in its own right. It broke out in a big way against the Redskins.
Pounding out 14 hits, the Big Reds' offense bailed out its pitching. Throw in some snazzy defensive plays and the Big Reds are another step closer to the regional tournament in Chillicothe next week by virtue of a convincing 9-3 victory.
"Nick didn't throw bad, but he fell behind in the count a lot, threw a lot of pitches early and missed up," John Patrone said. "He's had some outings like that, but he battled."
It didn't take the Big Reds (16-7) long to get the offense going.
Bellaire grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first, thanks to four hits. It appeared Coshocton might escape the jam after Bellaire loaded the bases with no outs, but the fourth and fifth hitters came up empty. Junior Tyler Ramsay, who fell behind in the count, came through with the clutch, two-run single into shallow center.
The lead was short-lived. Taking advantage of Nick Patrone's wildness, Coshocton knotted the game in the top of the third and had a chance for plenty more. Coshocton put together four straight hits, capitalized on a Bellaire throwing error and had the bases loaded with just one out.
Then, however, came probably the biggest play of the game. Damon Miller laced a Patrone offering down the first baseline. However, slick-fielding first baseman Brendan Ross snared it and then stepped on the bag for the inning-ending double play.
"That was huge," John Patrone said. "We had a couple of big defensive plays from several people."
That play seemed to take the life out of the Redskins (20-8).
Bellaire regained the lead in the third when Ross did it with the bat, driving in Hunter Westlake, who made a web gem of his own at third later in the game, from second with a single.
Staked to a lead once again, Patrone worked around two innocent singles in the Redskins' fourth. Then the Big Reds broke out the big lumber.
After Coshocton starting pitcher Talon Babcock walked the eighth and ninth hitters - Wyatt Back and Nick Hall, respectively - to start the frame, the flood gates opened.
Tyler West singled to load the bases. Patrone, who had three hits in the game, helped his cause with a two-run single into rightcenter. Hard-hitting shortstop Spencer Badia drove in West with a base hit, which chased Babcock.
Reliever Gavin Gray was greeted rudely by Westlake, who ripped a single into left, scoring Patrone. Ross then singled home the fifth run of the game to make it 8-2.
"We were hoping we could get the bats going," Patrone said. "We've been very streaky at the plate this year. I told the boys that we'd have to hit the baseball to win the game."
That was plenty of support for Nick Patrone, who allowed just three hits and an unearned run the rest of the game. He finished the game with six strikeouts, but four walks and he allowed eight hits.
Bellaire will take on Fort Frye, which dispatched Shenandoah on Tuesday in the other semifinal. The Big Reds are seeking their first regional trip since 2003.
"We have one game to go, and we are focusing on (Fort Frye)," Patrone said. "I don't care what happens after that. We're strictly focused on Fort Frye."
As expected, Patrone announced after the game that he'll give the ball to Badia this evening.
Coshocton 002 001 0 - 3 8 2
Bellaire 201 501 x - 9 14 2
C - Babcock lp (2K, 2BB), Gray (4, 2K, 1BB) and Mason. Gray 2S, Mason, D, RBI; Babcock T, Roahrig D, S, RBI.
B - Patrone wp (6K, 4BB) and Back. West 2S, Patrone, D, 2S, 2RBI; Badia, 3S, RBI; Westlake, D, S, RBI; Ross 2S, 2RBI; Ramsay S, RBI.