WHEELING - Falling behind 14-7 after Weirton Post 10 pushed 10 runs across the plate in the top of the fifth inning, the Wheeling Post 1 American Legion baseball team rallied and got the winning tally on a throwing error in the bottom of the seventh inning to capture an improbable 15-14 victory Tuesday night at the J.B. Chambers 1-470 complex.
The wild marathon contest that lasted more than three hours saw the teams combine for 29 runs, 25 hits, 12 physical errors and at least a half dozen mental boo-boos.
''I'm always excited when we win but this was pretty ugly," admitted Post 1 coach Tom Pasco as his team picked up its 10th victory against just three defeats. Wheeling had opened the season with seven straight wins before going 2-3 over the past weekend in the Elkins Hillbilly Hardball Tournament.
''It was a game probably nobody deserved to win," said the disappointed Billy Magnone, back at the helm of Weirton Legion squad after a three-year absence. ''Wheeling has a very good ball club and I think we are coming along. We played pretty well at the Elkins tournament and I think our kids are going to get better."
Magnone wasn't around for the end last night as he was ejected for protesting what he thought was a missed foul ball call with Wheeling's Patrick Biega at the plate in the bottom of the seventh.
After Matt Carnahan pitched out of a bases loaded, no-out situation in the top of the seventh, Jon-Michael Brunner led off the bottom of the frame with a hard smash past third base for a single, his third hit of the game. Biega stepped into the batter's box looking to drop down a sacrifice bunt but Post 10 pitcher Tory Fuscardo quickly fell behind 3-0 on the count. Fuscardo then got a called strike but his next pitch, with Biega again squared around a bunt, came high and inside forcing the Wheeling Jesuit University recruit to hit the dirt.
The pitch was ruled ball four but Magnone came on to the field, claiming it had ticked off Biega's bat and should have been a strike. Magnone continued the argument even after the umpire's conferred on the call and he was eventually ejected.
With two on and still nobody out, Jesse Hartley dropped a perfect bunt down the third base line that he beat out for a bunt. However, Fuscardo then threw wildly to first base permitting the winning run to cross the plate.
Failure to cover first base on several bunts was something that hurt both teams and had Pasco frustrated. ''We work on bunt plays like this all time but we didn't execute very well tonight. Doing the little things can win a lot of ball games for us. We are very fortunate to get get out with a win after all the mental and physical mistakes we made," Pasco added.
Magnone said, ''We didn't play very well but I was frustrated by the both umpires claiming they see that ball hitting the bat on that bunt attempt, I thought it took the game out of the kids' hands." he added, although Biega reportedly told Pasco afterward that the ball ticked off the bill of his helmet which would have resulted in a hit batter instead of a walk.
Carnahan, the fourth pitcher used during Weirton's 10-run fifth inning, not only stopped the bleeding in that frame by getting Cody Harmon to bang into a doubleplay, he also wiggled out that huge jam in the top of the seventh after a walk and bunt singles by Steve Barr and Chris Perna loaded the bases.
The Capital University sophomore-to-be sandwiched two called third strikes around still another Post 10 mental error after the runner at third base wandered too far off the bag and was unable to tag up and attempt to score onTroy Smith's line out to Brunner in center field.
Haydon Stanley led Post 1's 15-hit attack with a double, two singles and two RBIs.Nate Bakaitis doubled home three runs in the bottom of the sixth as Wheeling scored five times to tie the game at 14-14. Biega drove in two runs with a sacrifice fly and one of his two singles.
Barr had three hits for Weirton, a double, two singles, while Smith and Josh Russell collected two RBIs each.
The 10-run Weirton fifth inning included six hits, two walks with the bases loaded, a hit batter than also forced in a run and three Wheeling erors. Barr had the only extra base hit in the inning, a run-scoring double.
Wheeling Post 1 15, Weirton Post 10 14
Weirton 013 0(10)0 0 - 14 10 4
Wheeling 241 0 2 5 1 - 15 15 8
WEIRTON (5-6): Perna (0K, 3BB), Barr (6, 1K, 2BB), Fuscardo (LP, 6, 0K, 2BB) and Harmon; Barr D, 2S; Shaw 2S, rbi; Smith S, 2rbi; Russell D, 2rbi; Russell rbi; Fuscardo S, rbi.
WHEELING (10-3): Brooks (1K, 2BB); Jackson (5, 0K, 2BB); Bakaitis (5, 0K, 2BB); Carnahan (WP, 1K, 1BB) and Breen; Stanley D, 2S, 2rbi; Williams 2S, rbi; Breen S, rbi; Carnahan S, rbi; Brunner 3S; Biega 2S SF, 2rbi; Jeffries rbi; Bakaitis D, 3rbi.