Barton wins OVBL title
Braves’ fourth championship since 1996; Taylor named MVP
CRESCENT — Barton and Weirton went toe-to-toe like a pair of heavyweight boxers Wednesday night in a winner-take-all Game 5 of the Ohio Valley Baseball League championship series. However, the two talented squads couldn’t decide a winner in the regulation seven innings as the huge crowd of fans was treated to some bonus baseball.
Niko Petrides raced home from second base on an errant pickoff attempt with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning to score the winning run and stun the visiting third-seeded Bobcats, 2-1, on Pramesa Park’s Henning Field.
With the hard-earned victory, the top-seeded Braves (18-8) collected their fourth league championship since 1996, and their third since 2012. They also prevailed two summers ago and were playing in their third consecutive finals.
“This is probably the best team I’ve had,” veteran Barton manager Billy Timko said of his 2020 squad. “These guys have faced adversity all season long and they have overcome it nearly every time.
“Weirton is a really, really good team,” Timko said. “They have nothing to be ashamed of. They played a great series, it just came down to one break and that break went our way.”
The win also gave Timko his 325th managerial victory.
“I was born on March 25, so I really wanted this win.”
Petrides led off the final inning with a full-count walk and was sacrificed to second by Dmitri Collaros. With the count 2-2 on Eli Petho, Weirton catcher Larry Bielewski’s throw to second trying to pickoff Petrides sailed into centerfield and the fleet-footed Petrides did the rest.
“I’m scoring. I’m scoring,” was all Petrides could think of when he saw the wild throw go into centerfield. “I knew they were going to try and back-pick me and I wanted to give them a reason to throw me out. I wanted to prove my speed and my wheels. If you’re going to throw me out, you’re going to throw me out. I’m going to make that decision every time and (third base coach) Nick (Koval) saw the ball got into the outfield and waved me in.”
Petrides was mobbed by his teammates moments after touching home plate.
“Ben pitched his butt off today and I knew we needed to get him a run and the win. It all came down to who wanted it more and we wanted it just a little bit more,” Petrides, a former Steubenville High standout, added.
Series MVP Ben Taylor, who was also the winning pitcher in Game 2, went the distance on the mound for Barton. The righthander struck out seven, walked just one and allowed six singles and a double. He threw a career-high 112 pitches, with 81 going for strikes.
“It feels great. My teammates had my back the entire game in the field,” Taylor said while applying ice to his right elbow. “We got it done when we needed to.”
Taylor, a Wheeling Park product and a sophomore-to-be at Fairmont State, admitted that he had heard of the OVBL before this season.
“My dad always told me if I didn’t go far away for college, I was going to pitch in this league, but only for Barton, I knew I would end up here at some point. I’m really glad I came out this year. This is a great bunch of guys.”
Weirton’s Matt Komorowski had silenced the Barton bats through six-and-a-third innings. He gave way to Chris Gillette with two runners on. The duo combined for a strikeout, seven walks, two hit batters and a mere three hits.
“We didn’t give them much run support,” Weirton player/manager Jake Rosnick said of his two pitcher’s. “But on the other hand, Ben (Taylor) pitched real well. We hit the ball hard.
“It was a good game played by both teams. We have nothing to hang our heads about.”
The Bobcats took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Rosnick scored on Elijah Gillette’s sacrifice fly. They also threatened in the top of the ninth when Nick Leonard reached third but would be stranded as Joey Nave’s line drive was gloved by Barton shortstop Colton Coss.
Barton tied the game in the bottom of the seventh. With the bases loaded and one out, Petho grounded into a force out that allowed Isaac Rine to score from third.