Wheeling splits pair in Beast

WHEELING — The first game of the 31st Edgar Martin Beast of the East Tournament couldn’t have gone any better for Wheeling Post 1.

The second game, on the other hand, nothing went its way.

Wheeling Post 1 split a pair during Thursday’s opening contests at the J.B. Chambers I-470 Complex, routing the Ontario Cardinals, 14-1, in the opener before suffering an 8-1 setback against the Niagra Expos in Game 2.

“The first game, that was typical for us with 14 runs, 16 hits,” Wheeling Post 1 manager Jon-Michael Brunner said. “(Game 2), I didn’t think we played too bad. We hit the ball. We just the hit the ball right at them. But that is baseball.

“It is a long tournament. It is tough losing one, especially in the Beast because it is tough to play in that first-place bracket. But that is still our goal. Last year there were two teams from our pool in there.

“So we are going to come out and attempt to get into it. Our pitchers did OK, but it was one of those things where we just hit balls that stayed up in the air. At this point, it is try to keep them motivated to keep going and keep playing hard.”

In the air, on the ground, it didn’t seem to matter in the opener against the Ontario Cardinals.

Despite trailing 1-0 after the top of the first thanks to an unearned run, Wheeling wasted little time getting the bats going, plating four in the home half of the inning.

Chas McCool drove home the tying run, before Jarrod Jones began a solid day with a RBI triple that gave Wheeling its first lead and Post 1 rolled from there.

Hunter Kelley scored Jones on a sacrifice fly and Jon Milton contributed with a RBI single.

Wheeling left the bases loaded in the second, the only inning it didn’t score.

Post 1 brought home five runs each in the third and fourth innings.

Jones went 3-for-4 in Game 1 with four RBI. His single in the third drove in two.

Eric Cover and James Salvatori added RBI singles in the third inning and Dom Gorence hit a RBI double.

The hits and runs kept coming in the fourth, including scoring a run on a balk to go up 10-1.

Wheeling set itself up for a mercy rule victory after an Isaac Hines pinch hit single, followed by RBI singles from Salvatori, McCool and Jones.

The 14 runs were more than enough for Petho.

The former Linsly standout and All-Valley baseball co-captain wasn’t overpowering — he struck out two — but was efficient and his teammates made the routine plays behind him.

Petho allowed two hits and after the first inning, no baserunner got past first. He also put himself in good shape for the remainder of the tournament by throwing 36 total pitches, including a three-pitch second inning.

“He is one of our starting guys so that was huge,” Brunner said. “In terms of pitching, that is always the biggest question in a tournament like this. Do we have enough pitching to do it? I would say we are sitting pretty good. Eli didn’t throw a lot, really just a bullpen game for him. He will be ready to go down the road.”

Wheeling had little rest before heading back onto the field, taking on the Niagra Expos next following a 30-minute break.

It looked like things would keep rolling for Post 1, striking first in the second inning as Bauer drove in Zach Taylor to go up 1-0 in the bottom of the second.

But this time the baseball gods flipped the script and it was all Niagra from that point.

In what would be a theme, Keith Murphy drove in two runs with a single to give the New York-based club its first lead.

In the third, with two outs, Murphy drove in two more on a double that found the gap between center and right to extend a Niagra lead.

Jake Lajeunesse followed with a RBI single that chased Wheeling starter Gage Thomas.

Niagra extended its lead to 8-1 in the sixth. An Everett Quintieri sac fly with the bases loaded was followed by a RBI single by — who else? — Murphy, scoring two more.

Murphy finished 3-for-4 with six RBI.

Pitcher Austin Hank earned a victory, striking out four and not allowing a walk.

Wheeling Post 1 will look to get back into the win column today with another set of back-to-back games, this time beginning at 3:30 p.m. at the I-470 Complex.

First up is the Hiland Summer Hawks, followed by the North Coast Pelicans (appx 6 p.m).

“It is a grind,” Brunner said. “We have to come back (today) with the same focus, same energy and we will be fine. Being on the baseball field, Fourth of July weekend, this is what these guys like to do.

“There is a chance we are going to lose a game down state. All this does is build up for what truly matters at the end. So we will see how they bounce back. We are going to see what they are made of.”