Wheeling Park too much for Harrison Central
WHEELING — Unlike last year, the Wheeling Park senior baseball players got their day in the sun on Thursday.
The Patriots celebrated Senior Day with clutch hitting and clutch pitching in an 8-3 victory over Harrison Central on Patriot Field.
After Kobe Mitchell drove in a run for the Huskies in the top of the first inning, Park used a seven-run second inning to take control of the game.
“Guys battled and they got a couple of clutch hits,” Park coach Steve Myers said of the second inning outburst. “They ran the bases well that inning and guys were ready for their opportunity.
“This is a fantastic group of seniors and we will miss every single one of them. It’s a good way for seniors to have their Senior Day. This is a senior-led team and I think every senior played.”
The big inning began when Park catcher Luke Marsh drove a ball to deep right field, which was misjudged and went rolling to the wall to bring home the equalizer.
Then, senior Nick Fencl delivered a crucial, pinch-hit RBI single to left to plate the go-ahead run.
“Fencl came in and hit the first pitch and had a good hit there,” Myers said.
Following a sacrifice fly to left by senior Noah Seivertson, fellow senior and switch-hitting center fielder James Salvatori laced a two-run double down the right field line from the left side of the dish to soften the Park cushion to 5-1.
“That’s something he’s working on,” Myers said of Salvatori’s left-handed hit. “If I know James, he’ll succeed at it, too.”
Gian DeGenova and Michael Bittinger added RBI knocks to conclude the breakout frame.
Harrison got a run back in the fifth on a RBI hit by Mitchell and looked to climb back into the game in the sixth when Caden Jurosko drew a bases-loaded walk to make it a 7-2 ballgame before Avery Lee took the mound in relief for Park.
With nobody out and the bases full, the right-handed senior struck out the next three hitters to keep the Huskies from making a push to get back in the game.
“He’s done some pitching but with rain days and limited days, we’ve had limited chances for guys to pitch,” Myers said. “(Thursday) he made the most of his opportunity. He’s a competitor. He came in with the bases loaded and struck out the side.”
Harrison Central coach Mike Valesko was impressed by Lee’s changeup in that moment.
“We had a chance to make it interesting there but credit Avery. He came in and did a good job,” Valesko said. “His changup was pretty devastating. He threw it for a strike and punched us out three straight times. That was the difference.”
Bittinger added an insurance RBI in the bottom half of the frame and Lee slammed the door.
Senior Seth Hand collected the win with two strikeouts and no walks over five innings, while Caleb Blawut took the loss with three strikeouts and three walks.
Sam Santille and Skylar Mazeroski each recorded two hits for the Huskies.
“I thought for the most part we competed,” Valesko said. “The story of the game was that we gave up 10 free bases with walks and hit batters and they only gave up two.
“We played well last week against Bellaire and we had a great weekend up at Columbus against two of the best teams you’ll see in Olentangy Orange and a really good Westland team. Then down here at Park. I can tell you this — when it comes to postseason time, we’ll be battle tested and ready to go.”