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St. Clairsville routs Post 29

CAMBRIDGE — Shaking off a late-season slump, St. Clairsville made a statement Friday night during the opening round of the American Legion Region 8 Tournament.

Post 159 scored in all four innings en route to a convincing, 12-0, rout of Zanesville Post 29 in a game stopped after four-and-a-half innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.

“The first game of any tournament weekend is big. I told the kids the theme I’m going to drive into them this weekend is ‘Focus up and pedal down the whole way,'” Post 159 (18-8) manager Mike Muklewicz explained.

“Sometimes we lose focus and sometimes we don’t keep the pedal down. If we take care of those two things, I’m very confident of what they can do this weekend.”

A four-run first inning jump-started the blowout as Matthew Busby ignited the early outburst with a leadoff double to the leftfield corner. He would race home on a wild pitch with Jacob Probst at the plate and an ensuing single by Jakob Jarvis made it 2-0 as Mason Ramsay trotted home. Kyle Storer sprinted home on another wild offering with Will Balgo batting. Tyler Tonkovich reached on an infield single as Jarvis scored as the margin grew to 4-0.

“When (Matthew) Busby and Mason (Ramsay) go, we go. We expect them to get things started for us,” Muklewicz noted. “This is the third year for both of them and we expect them to set an example for the younger guys.”

Staked to a 4-0 lead, Drake Dobson, who is headed to Muskingum University to continue his academic and athletic careers, continually pounded the strike zone. He finished with half-a-dozen strikeouts, scattered four singles and walked a pair. He threw 72 pitches, with 48 being strikes.

“Drake came in and threw a great game,” Muklewicz said of his righthander from Martins Ferry. “Drake is the kind of kid that is going to come out and battle and compete. That’s what he did tonight. That’s what we expect of him. All three of his pitches were working for him.”

Busby, who also doubled leading off the second inning, scored on a Zanesville (2-16) error as the lead increased to 5-0. St. Clairsville made it 6-0 in the third as Cole Porter raced home on a wild pitch.

Six runs in the fourth was all Post 159 needed to end things early. Dylan Gregorcic highlighted the uprising with a two-run single through the right side of the infield. Storer, Probst and Tonkovich all added RBI in the inning. A sixth tally scored on an error.

Dobson worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the second. He struck out a batter for the second out before Nate Blevins’ bouncer to the right side hit the baserunner to end the threat.

“Sometimes the ball bounces your way,” Muklewicz allowed.

Nearing a pitch limit, Dobson was pulled with two outs in the fifth and runners on first and second. Luke Jozwiak relieved and retired the only batter he faced.

Muklewicz hadn’t decided between Storer or Balgo as today’s starter.

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