STEUBENVILLE - Fans in attendance at Monday's George Kovalick Ohio Valley Athletic Conference All-Star Baseball Classic were treated to a display of dominant pitching by both sides of the river.
In the end the Ohio hurlers had just a bit more as the Buckeyes topped West Virginia 3-2 at Vaccaro Field.
"I told them it was nice to come here and sit down in the dugout," said West Virginia coach Jeff Baire, who coached Madonna to a Class A state title Sunday. "Not being stressed, not worrying about calls and, not giving signs at third base. It was just enjoyable."
ALL-STARS — Big Red’s JoJo Pierro, Indian Creek’s Ty Yocum and Central’s Jimmy Panella watch a teammate bat during Ohio’s 3-2 win over West Virginia in the George Kovalick OVAC All-Star Baseball Classic Monday at Vaccaro Field.
-- Fred Younce
Five Ohio pitchers combined to strike out 14 batters while walking just one and giving up two runs on five hits. Edison's Greg Stagani and St. Clairsville's Sam Vincenzo each took the hill for three innings to take the Buckeyes through the first six frames. Stagani gave up one run while striking out four. Vincenzo gave up a goose egg and struck out seven.
"When you come to an all-star game you don't feel like you're the best player anywhere," said Stagani. "You have 22 kids that are all good so its just fun to be a part of such a bunch of great kids."
Fort Frye's Zach Eddy, Edison's Mark Smyth and Big Red's JoJo Pierro pitched the final three innings, each striking out one with Pierro giving up a run.
"I give West Virginia credit because they pitched well, but Stagani pitched great, Vincenzo was unbelievable, Smitty pitched great, Eddy pitched well and JoJo made it interesting at the end, but pitching wins games and we had a little more," said Martins Ferry head coach Anthony Reasbeck, one of Ohio's coaches.
While not quite as impressive, the Mountaineers staff was great in its own right striking out 10 and walking five while giving up three runs on seven hits. John Marshall's Jacob Lucas, University's Zac Hart, Madonna's Logan Linder, the Monarchs' Todd Schmidt and the Blue Dons' Connor Mogan all dealt for West Virginia.
"There was a lot of great pitching," said Linder, who won a West Virginia Class A state title the day before. "You don't see that every game. There was nothing but aces out there."
Hart was charged with one run and Schmidt with two with each picking up four strikeouts. Linder had the other two.
"It was an honor," said Brooke's Nick Breen, who caught some of the game. "It's been a lot of fun getting to play with a bunch of my buddies.
"We played hard and almost won, but there's nothing you can do. It was just a good time."
West Virginia scored the game's first run in the top of the second. Logan Linder led off with a single and, three batters, later Wheeling Central's Patrick Biega drove him in with a double.
"All the time we've only had the chance to play against each other, so to come out and be on the same team makes it fun," said Linder. "We got to see a lot of great players today. It was a pretty competitive game."
The Buckeyes tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the third. Indian Creek's Ty Yocum blasted a triple to start the frame and the next batter, Cambridge's Jimmy Antalis, sent him home on a sacrifice fly to left. "It felt great," said Yocum. "On the triple the kid threw me a hanging curve ball, I sat back on it, and drove it in the left-center gap. As a team I think we hit pretty good."
Things stayed that way until the bottom of the seventh. St. Clairsville's B.J. Busby kicked things off with a double. The next two Ohio batters went down on strikes bring to the plate Barnesville's Zack Dornon who laced a two-out double to plate Busby and give the Buckeye's a 2-1 lead.
"It was great," said Busby of his expereince. "Everyone knows each other, it was a great atmosphere, and it's like we were a team already."
Ohio picked up an insurance run an inning later. Yocum drew a walk and Antalis reached on an error to put two on and no outs.
The duo pulled off a successful double steal to put runners at second and third and Yocum later scored on a passed ball to make the score 3-1. West Virginia got out of the frame with no more damage, but that run proved huge.
"West Virginia had excellent pitching," said Yocum. "Hats off to them. It was a heck of a game, but we were just able to come up with some clutch plays in big situations."
With one out in the top of the ninth, John Marshall's Aaron Fonner hit a blast over the left field fence to pull the Mountaineers within one at 3-2. Brooke's Steven Jeffries then reached when he swung at a third strike, but the ball went to the backstop.
University's Trey Shreve then singled and Mogan pushed the runners to second and third with two outs. Wheeling Central's Andrew Keane then laced a ground ball to short where Busby scooped it, threw to first and secured the win.
"This was one of the funnest things I've done in coaching," said Reasbeck. "It's a lot of fun when you have these guys playing for you instead of against you.
"I'm very excited to be around these guys. They're great ball players, they bring a lot of energy, and you can't say enough about them. I wish them all a lot of luck down the line because they all can play."
Added Steve Mihalyo of the chance not only play in the game, but to get the win, "It's just a dream to play in an all-star game like this, but it always feels good to be able to win for the Ohio side. It really is a privilege to play in the game."
Continued a smiling Busby, "It feels pretty good. We don't really like them very much."
Ohio 3, West Virginia 2
West Virginia 010 000 001 - 2 5 1
Ohio 001 000 11x - 3 7 1
OHIO: Stagani (4K, 0BB), Vincenzo (4th, 7K, 0BB), Eddy (7th, 1K, 0BB), Smyth (8th, 1K, 1BB), Pierro (9th, 1K, 0BB). Busby s, d, r; Dornon d, rbi; Yocum t, 2r; Antalis rbi; Mihalyo s; Orr 2s.
WEST VIRGINIA: Lucas (0K, 1BB), Hart (3rd, 4K, 1BB), Linder (5th, 2K, 0BB), Schmidt (7th, 4K, 3BB), Mogan (8th, 0K, 0BB). Linder s, r; Biega d, rbi; Fonner hr, rbi; Shreve s; Keane s.