Post 159 drops home opener

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Good pitching will beat good hitting 99 percent of the time. It did 100 percent of the time Saturday.

Tyler Bradford struck out 14 batters as Beverly-Lowell Post 389/750 spoiled the home opener of St. Clairsville Post 159 with a 3-1 win in game 1 of an American Legion baseball action on the Memorial Park diamond. The lefty from Fort Frye who pitched at Potomac State this spring finished with a two-hitter, a pair of walks and a hit batter.

“The kid on the mound we saw twice last year. He’s a returning college kid who throws hard, locates his pitches in and out, and has a couple of secondary pitches that are very effective,” Post 159 manager Mike Muklewicz said of the crafty southpaw. “We beat him once last year and he shut us down the other. We knew what to expect and we just didn’t hop on him.”

Post 389/750 used a pair of timely two-out hits in scoring all their runs.

Nate Brothers sent a 1-2 pitch through the right side of the infield in the second inning that drove in Evan Gandee for a 1-0 lead.

St. Clairsville (2-1) drew even an inning later when Will Balgo singled to right and went to second on a throwing error. An infield groundout moved Balgo to third, and he raced home on Matthew Busby’s grounder to second.

Post 159 would only have four runners reach base after that, with half of those coming in the fifth when they left the runners on first and third. They only had half-a-dozen in the game.

Bradford started the game-winning rally with his bat. He doubled to right-center leading off and went to third when Clayton Cook bunted for a base hit. Brett Gandee moved Cook to second with a sacrifice bunt, but Post 159 reliever Cole Porter struck out the next batter. However, left-handed hitting Drew Huffman bounced a 1-1 offering between first and second as courtesy runners Jacob Huffman and Kam Hesson scored.

Bradford retired seven of the final eight batters he faced.

“We’re still trying to find our identity,” Muklewicz admitted. “The kids are just now getting together after that great St. Clairsville run in the playoffs. This is only our third time completely together as a team for a game, so we’ll find that identity and get going there.

“I’d like to see the kids come out of the gate with a little more energy and start hitting the ball better,” he continued. “We can’t sit back and wait for that one big inning. We need to put up some 1s and 2s throughout the game.”

While Bradford, who threw 115 pitches, was shining on the hill, Post 159 starter Mason Ramsay left the mound after two innings as Porter came in.

“Mason looked great for the first two innings, but he came off the field after the second and said he felt a little tight. Being this early in the season, we wanted to be cautious with a kid that is playing college ball,” Muklewicz said of the Baldwin Wallace sophomore-to-be. “Cole came in and threw five strong innings. He held them in check for the most part.”

Porter struck out nine and walked one. Ramsay fanned one. They teamed to allow eight hits.

St. Clairsville travels to Connorville Monday to face Brilliant Post 573 before it heads to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for a weekend Tournament. Its first game is Friday.