Bellaire blanks St. C. to reach D-III district

CAMBRIDGE – John Patrone had seen it before.

The script was eerily similar. His Bellaire Big Reds are nursing a lead in the seventh inning against St. Clairsville in the Division III baseball sectional and the Red Devils begin a rally in the seventh.

However, Saturday’s conclusion was different.

This time around, the Big Reds found their way to three outs in the seventh after the Red Devils put two aboard in the top of the seventh to post a hard-earned and cherished 1-0 victory to advance to the district tournament this Wednesday at Vacarro Field in Steubenville.

“Two years ago came right back into my head,” Patrone said. “They had two fast kids on base, so we had to throw strikes and play defense.”

That’s exactly what senior ace Nick Patrone did after his father and head coach paid him a visit on the mound.

After Nick Patrone recorded the first two outs with ease, he walked ninth hitter Dylan Busby and junior centerfielder Malik Gummer laced a single, putting the tying run in scoring position.

Unfazed, Patrone knew exactly what he had to do.

“I knew I had to throw strikes there or I was coming out,” Nick Patrone smiled. “If I don’t throw strikes at that point, it becomes a different ballgame real fast.”

St. C’s 21st out was Patrone’s 11th strikeout of the game, setting off a celebration for the Big Reds’ 15th victory in 22 outings this spring.

Patrone was brilliant. He limited the Red Devils to a single in the first, fifth and seventh innings. He did walk five, but was able to find his way to outs and keep St. C. from producing the clutch hit.

“I am really happy with how we came and competed,” St. C. head coach Tom Sliva said. “I know it’s coach speak, but a lot of that is true. I can’t help that it’s said before because it needs repeated. We played hard, competed and stayed with it every inning, but we just couldn’t get that big hit. (Nick Patrone) is a quality pitcher and Bellaire’s a quality team.”

With Patrone and St. C. starter Michael “Zuke” Jacob on the mound, John Patrone knew runs might be of the premium.

His Big Reds strung two singles together in the second, but failed to score.

In the fourth, Bellaire didn’t let the opportunity get by. Junior Hunter Westlake, who turned in a sparking defensive game at third, singled into right center.

Brendon Ross dropped down a beautiful sacrifice bunt, moving Westlake up 90 feet.

Junior Tyler Ramsay, who had a single in the second, ripped a base hit over the third baseman’s head into left.

Coach Patrone recognized the depth of the Red Devils’ outfield and how the ball died in the thick, damp grass and immediately sent Westlake, who scored well ahead of the throw.

“Zuke’s tough (on the mound),” John Patrone said. “I am glad he’s healthy and back out there. We couldn’t get a lot going, but we executed a bunt and produced a run. I knew we had to take our chances when we got one, so I sent (Westlake).”

St. Clairsville, which finishes the season at 10-11, gave itself some chances. The Red Devils got Luke Slavik to third with one out in the fifth, but Nick Patrone got a strikeout and then after issuing a walk, induced a comebacker to escape the jam.

“I actually thought we had more scoring opportunities than they did, but we just couldn’t get the big hit,” Sliva said. “It was a well-played baseball game, but unfortunately we came out on the short end of it.”

The Big Reds will take on the winner of Coshocton and Sandy Valley at 6 p.m. in Steubenville.

Linescore:

St. Clairsville 000 000 0 – 0 3 1

Bellaire 000 100 x – 1 4 0

St. C. – Jacob lp (7K, 2W) and Slavik.

B – Patrone wp (11K, 5W) and Back. Ramsay 2S, rbi.